Heralding Craft – Prahran House by Dita Studio
Prahran, VIC, Australia
Reinstating the grandeur of the original building, the restoration of Prahran House elevates the experience of the home. Dita Studio’s mature and refined approach creates a timeless yet contemporary home that emphasises craft.
In its heritage-rich surrounds, Prahran House is an important contributor to the area’s layered past. Preserving and reinstating its original sense of place and presence was imperative. As a combination restoration and renovation effort, the new insertions give respect to the original detailing and sit in complementary unison with one another. Through a restrained approach, Dita Studio’s founder and director Rita D’Souza sought to create a home of measured purpose, inserting elements that naturally illuminate the home and introducing a considered palette with an emphasis on natural materials.
As a combination restoration and renovation effort, the new insertions give respect to the original detailing and sit in complementary unison with one another.
The combining of old and new requires an appreciation for both and the respectful proposal of elements that also complement the original crafted details. With the home having remained unrenovated in any form for over 40 years, the team had a blank canvas with which to work once all of the outdated and ornate fittings and surfaced coverings were removed. In speaking to how she conceived of the spaces during the design process, Rita says, “we wanted them to feel embellished by principles and ideas of lightness and inspired by a quest for harmony and silence.” This was driven by a vision to “embrace shapes, materials and textures within well designed spaces and to have a positive influence on a person’s well-being by living with less,” she says.
“Everything about the home, from layout to materiality, was driven by the client’s desire to create a place to connect with family and nature,” Rita adds. “The courtyard, though small given the suburban location, acts as part of the house, with low-maintenance gardening enjoyed by the busy family daily.” As such, key alterations were the introduction of natural light deep into the home and the breaking up of the closed-in formality of its time. Through the generous opening into courtyards and curated garden spaces, designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture and Normark Landscapes, deliberate connections between the home and its site have been created, expanding the original perceived boundary of the home and making better use of its assets.
The combining of old and new requires an appreciation for both and the respectful proposal of elements that also complement the original crafted details.
“Natural light has been the main focus, so that the occupier of the house is able to appreciate the quality of light, as well as the shadow and pattern that this light creates,” Rita says. “Expansive ceiling heights, full height openings and the extensive use of glass with sharp considered metal detailing have delivered light, airy spaces where light can be its own feature and where light is the hero.” Natural light further emphasises these expansive high ceilings, and light enlivens the materiality of the walls, engaging with the plaster as the sun shifts over the course of the day.
Restraint and a controlled palette of materials were inherent to many of the design decisions. As an extension of the home’s origins, establishing a connection to craft was key. To achieve this, Rita worked closely with Damir Dzuzdanovic of Made by Storey to select the timber flooring, laid in a chevron pattern that responds to the home’s heritage. “The finishes and colour scheme throughout the house had a natural warmth to it, which the cool silver greys of Ocean (from the Touch Collection) complemented nicely,” says Damir. “To achieve the colour, it takes 13 processes to achieve the end result of such a unique colour. It’s a smoky grey that through its processing, enhances the grain and texture of the time and allows it to add depth and a hint of warmth, while still working within a contemporary palette.” Rita elaborates that “to increase the presence of horizontal scale, the Made by Storey floorboards were used and placed in parallel to the new courtyard extension. The floorboards chevron in pattern were paying a homage to the traditional era of the house, furthermore the wire brushed texture creates a soft feeling underfoot and showcased the woods natural lines. Reducing the textures and positioning the floorboards with intent creates a visual harmony – constantly drawing attention outward.”
“The finishes and colour scheme throughout the house had a natural warmth to it, which the cool silver greys of Ocean (from the Touch Collection) complemented nicely,” says Damir.
Through the limiting and concentrating of palette throughout, the restoration and extension of Prahran House is an extension of its original stately beginnings as a highly detailed and crafted home. Dita Studio, working in close connection with the contributing makers like Made By Storey, has ensured the intended refinement has carried through.