Reconnecting to Place – Middle Park Residence by Christopher Elliott Design

Carving into, opening up and building upon the existing terrace house, Christopher Elliott Design imbues Middle Park Residence with a renewed sense of purpose. While an additional level and generous openings connect the home to its Port Phillip Bay aspect, an introspective landscaped core balances this outward focus.

In reconfiguring the existing 1980s terrace home to better align with contemporary life, Christopher Elliott, Director and Founder of Christopher Elliott Design, explains that the studio “took a holistic approach, where we worked from ground zero – working on the plans, through to selections of artwork and styling – our full scope spanned over three years.” The focus, he adds, “was on creating an enduring home that reflected its owner and was something that both spoke to them, and that they loved as an expression of them.” Collaborating with Nathan Burkett Landscape Architecture, the punctuations created allow the natural in and generate visual and ventilated connections out, which formed the basis of the home’s resolve.

As part of a row of neighbouring similar forms, the extent to which Middle Park Residence could be altered was ultimately determined by its surrounds. “Because of the nature of the architecture and the very high dominating boundary walls to the left and right, the approach was treated almost like a peninsula project – with a focus to the rear and front, inspired by the experience felt from within,” Christopher says. The decision to punch through the existing roof and create an additional level needed to be navigated with sensitivity. As such, the additional volume was set back intentionally to ensure there were no negative impacts on the neighbouring properties, allowing the streetscape rhythm to remain intact and unaffected from approach.

Inspired by a contemporary and clean simplicity, the new brings together a palette of restrained core features, dotted and animated with injections of colour that add personality and character. “The client wanted to be able to live here for many years, and the home needed to reflect that longevity and ensure that the spaces wouldn’t date,” remarks Christopher. Echoing the home’s sentiment of permanence is the premium timber flooring chosen from Made by Storey. “It’s incredibly important to us that our products are made from the finest quality timber,” explains Made by Storey Director Damir Dzuzdanovic. “Our hand-selected, engineered French Oak flooring in Cloud from the Tonal Collection perfectly complements the interior of Middle Park Residence.” The Made by Storey flooring ensures durability and stability, whilst the lightly wire-brushed grain patterns of Cloud add a dynamic tactility. “There is a warmth to Cloud’s tonality,” Damir says, “and it elevates the space with a soft, lustrous ambition.” Another important element of the brief was for the spaces to be adaptable to suit a multi-generational household. The carving of the courtyard as its own volume was crucial to this aim, while dedicated wings for the children, parents and entertaining ensure a natural harmony and balance internally.

The Made by Storey flooring is backed with 100% birch plywood to ensure durability and stability, whilst the lightly wire-brushed grain patterns of Cloud add a dynamic tactility.

A return to base principles of embracing quality light and a connection to landscape inspired the collaboration with Nathan Burkett Landscape Architecture, heightening the importance of the natural integrated elements. Originally a dark two-level home, the new gestures create a greater connection to natural light and bring it deep into the building. “Without access to a lot of available exterior space, we needed to make sure that the space that was created worked hard to have a positive influence on the experience of the home,” Christopher says. “The softening of the central landscaped core really helped to create an aperture that allows the building structure to have an increased sense of space.” Grounding the new insertions and interventions sees a contrasting approach to the landscape, which was considered and integrated from inception. “Even though there aren’t clear lines of delineation and pathways, and the response is more freeform, the natural is highly curated and inserts an important breathing element and focal point from all spaces that engage with it.”

Originally, the ceilings presented as a concrete slab, both posing challenges and helping to define an aesthetic direction. The selection of robust, time-honoured materials and quality finishes, such as the concrete and the contrasting Made by Storey timber flooring, ensures a level of durability, while strengthening the home’s anchoring in place. “Sculpted forms,” Christopher says, “add an element of softness around the fireplace and joinery, for example, with the curving notion key to balancing the other hard and rectilinear elements.” This same principle is shared through the furniture selections that aid in defining the spaces, balancing the crisp material palette of concrete and timber. In emphasising some features, there was also a concerted effort to avoid highlighting compressed areas that could not be altered and instead celebrate the open and lofted qualities of the home as a focus.

Reflecting the calm and still waters it now overlooks, Middle Park Residence turns inward and introspectively acts as its own sanctuary in place, celebrating balanced connections. Christopher Elliott Design embeds aspects of both the home’s inhabitants and the surrounding context to create a private and protected retreat.