Quintessentially Melbourne – Seymour Ave by Tom Robertson Architects

Words by Penny Craswell
Photography by Derek Swalwell
Landscape Mud Office

Seymour Ave is an extension of a restored Victorian house in Melbourne’s Armadale by Tom Robertson Architects that features a monochromatic minimalism with a quintessentially Melbourne feel.

White, grey and black, pared back, simple, beautiful: Melbourne architect Tom Robertson and his small team have developed a knack for designing tasteful timeless homes with a monochromatic minimalism. Their latest is Seymour House, a contemporary extension in Armadale, Victoria.

“At the junction, you are exposed to an unexpected double height void that brings light deep into the heart of the house” says Tom Robertson.

Tom Robertson Architects has created a contemporary look and feel for this extension, with concrete exteriors, and a mix of wood, stone, timber and monochrome finishes in the open-plan kitchen, dining and living spaces.

Retaining the existing front part of the house with its beautiful period detailing, the home is opened at the back to create a series of open, light-filled spaces with clean lines, and expert functionality and proportion. The old and new meet at a double-height void that neatly expresses the distinction. “At the junction, you are exposed to an unexpected double height void that brings light deep into the heart of the house,” says Tom Robertson.

Walking from this junction through to the new addition, you are greeted with a sense of spaciousness with a large open kitchen and dining space. The flooring here is an engineered oak, while the kitchen walls, benches and benchtop are in a pale grey natural stone. The cabinets are black on the back wall and white on the island and tapware is timeless in silver. Floor-to-ceiling operable windows open out to a courtyard on one side, while the opposite wall features built-in bookshelves and cupboards – white on top with a black lower half. A black dining table with black and timber chairs and minimalist chandelier Austere by Great Dane creates space for formal or informal meals.

The basin is a huge monolith, almost like an artist’s chunk of marble ready for sculpting.

The exterior features grey concrete and pavers and white shutters to the first floor windows, while the living space uses grey carpet and curtains to create a homogenous feel.

The kitchen and dining space then continue to a sunken living room, accessed by two steps, where the neutral colour palette continues, with light grey carpet and full-height curtains that soften the spaces. A concrete wall separates this room from the outdoor space at the back of the house and the black and white built-in shelves/cupboards from the dining space continue into the living room. “The sunken lounge is one of my favourite spaces,” says Tom. “This is a robust home for a rapidly growing family. We put the focus on entertaining, but also on creating kid-friendly spaces that can be flexible as they grow older.”

At the front of the house, the renovated master bedroom features more built-in furniture, with bedboard extended to act as bedside tables with in-built shelving. The walk-in wardrobe is clad in luscious timber joinery and leads to a light-filled ensuite in crisp grey marble. The basin is a huge monolith, almost like an artist’s chunk of marble ready for sculpting. In the family bathroom, a similar marble has been used, but extended over a white cabinet for a finer application.

Extensive joinery in the bedroom and walk in wardrobe are in timber, while the grey stone of the kitchen is again present in both ensuite and family bathrooms.

Externally, the open-plan living space leads to a courtyard and garden, where grey unifies the space and an external kitchen bench provides a space for family barbeques and gatherings. The landscape design by Mud Office features leafy green plants, bushes and trees, with moss, ferns and jasmine alongside a number of other planting adding to the sense of layered greenery broken by grey. Above, sliding white shutters to the second-storey windows allow the owners to control light and heat, while providing an interesting façade effect.

This project meets the brief – four bedrooms, three bathrooms, rumpus, office, open plan living – but it also does much more than that. It brings light into the centre of the space. It organises space to allow for functional family living. It brings privacy and adds value to the property. The architects have also considered carefully the sustainable aspects of the project to reduce the need for power-hungry heating and air conditioning. “This project’s orientation allowed us to design for passive solar gain and cross flow circulation,” says Tom.

Despite its Nordic minimalism, its Italian-style external shutters, this house is totally and completely Melbourne. Utterly contemporary, with that use of black in cabinetry, furniture and window-frames less common in Sydney or Brisbane, the effect is seductive.