The Fisher & Paykel Series

Build Less, Give More - Brick and Gable House by Breathe Architecture

Port Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Breathe Architecture’s mantra ‘build less, give more’ is exemplified by their Brick and Gable House, which began life as a plan for a large family home and was reconceived as a smaller, more modest project after the clients spent time living in a small urban apartment in Copenhagen.

The result of this change is a home that does a lot with less. The design manages to incorporate the clients’ love of modernism and Scandinavian design, a generous kitchen for entertaining, respect for the original home’s heritage, and the Breathe ethos of prioritising sustainability and functionality, creating a warm and textural home with a sense of lived-in maturity.

The design manages to incorporate the clients’ love of modernism and Scandinavian design.

Recycled brickwork used throughout the design places and emphasis on sustainability.

The clients had approached Breathe and the architects had completed a schematic design for a large home before the opportunity arose for the clients to live overseas for a year. When they returned, the experience of living in a small inner-city Copenhagen apartment gave them a renewed perspective on their priorities and how much space was actually necessary. ‘We respected this decision tremendously, and we started schematic design over with brief and budget and brief cut in half’, says architect Madeline Sewall, project lead on the Brick and Gable House. ‘We prioritised updating the kitchen, living and dining and left the front portion of the terrace house and upstairs as is, with the original Victorian character intact.’

Breathe wanted to integrate the design with the hertiage fabric of the historical Port Melbourne street.

The Breathe ethos of prioritising sustainability and functionality created a warm and textural home with a sense of lived-in maturity.

The original home, located in the historic inner Melbourne suburb of Port Melbourne, was heritage listed, so the façade was unchanged in the new design, while a new brick studio addresses the street at the rear of the property. ‘The project is about making simple moves to improve the functionality for the family that lives there, while maintaining and celebrating the original character’, says Madeline. The quiet street populated by roller doors and outbuildings provided the impetus for a design that is robust and informal, tying the new addition into its context.

The heritage façade was unchanged in the new design, while a new brick studio addresses the street at the rear of the property.

‘The project is about making simple moves to improve the functionality for the family that lives there, while maintaining and celebrating the original character’.

Contemporary brickwork is used to give the home a stylish inner-city vibe.

For Madeline, the focus was on a design that was integrated with the street, while also ‘having an architectural language that would relate to the extension of the main house’, she says. Recycled red bricks were chosen as a sustainable, utilitarian material to tie in with this intent. The parapet of the studio marries in with the parapet of the existing neighboring structures, but stack bond brickwork was used to give it a contemporary edge.

Recycled brickwork is combined with Australian blackbutt timber veneer joinery and recycled Tasmanian oak flooring.

The materials create a sense of warmth both inside and out.

Inside, the Breathe emphasis on sustainably-sourced materials creates a form-follows-function aesthetic, with the solid double brick walls minimising the need for plasterboard and applied finishes. Combined with Australian blackbutt timber veneer joinery and recycled Tasmanian oak flooring, the internal recycled brick walls blur the distinction between inside and out, past and present, with a simple coat of white paint on several of the walls brightening the space. Such truth to materials creates a sense of warmth, intimacy and connection that is unusual in a newly built space. ‘The clients were keen to take up our Breathe ethos of hard-wearing Australian materials that prioritise function and sustainability’, says Madeline, ‘and I think the outcome is warm and textural home that feels lived in for much longer than it has been’.

‘I think the outcome is warm and textural home that feels lived in for much longer than it has been’.

The kitchen and dining areas were the main priority for the clients.

With the bedrooms and more private areas tucked away in the original section of the home, the new addition is an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area opening onto the central courtyard. ‘The clients are friendly, casual people who love family and entertaining, so the kitchen and dining areas were the biggest priority for them’, explains Madeline. ‘We focused on a big, functional centre island with a higher servery ledge, so family could gather around while they are cooking’. The island bench creates a sense of connection between the kitchen and the rest of the space, creating a relaxed, social environment (further enhanced by an in-built wine fridge hiding in the island!).

‘We focused on a big, functional centre island with a higher servery ledge, so family could gather around while they are cooking’.

Breathe Architecture have a long-standing professional relationship with Fisher & Paykel.

Breathe Architecture have a long-standing professional relationship with Fisher & Paykel, who supplied all the appliances for the groundbreaking Nightingale Housing developments. ‘Fisher & Paykel believe in what we are trying to deliver and what is important to us, and so have been a great partner to us on the Nightingale projects’, says Madeline. ‘In the Brick and Gable House, they helped us to specify a collection of appliances that met the clients’ needs and were as efficient as possible.’ Induction cooking avoids the use of fossil fuels, running instead on greener power, while a DishDrawer allows smaller loads of dishes to be run, using less water. Madeline explains that the DishDrawer was also specified for ergonomics, as one of the clients has a sensitive back.

‘Fisher & Paykel believe in what we are trying to deliver and what is important to us, and so have been a great partner to us on the Nightingale projects’.

The Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer.

In a space where the kitchen is the focal point, the aesthetic of the joinery and appliances was key, so the fridge and DishDrawer are integrated into the cabinetry allowing the timber to shine and warm the space. It was important to the clients to have a fridge with water dispenser in the door, which ordinarily would be incompatible with an integrated unit. Fisher & Paykel worked with the joiner to help the architects achieve the integrated fridge with water dispenser in the door. ‘This was important to the clients and the customer service we received on the technical aspects of the integration was great’, Madeline says. ‘Fisher & Paykel even provided a CAD file to the joiner to ensure the cutout for the door would be perfect!’.

The Fisher & Paykel fridge and DishDrawer are integrated into the cabinetry allowing the timber to shine and warm the space.

The kitchen became the new focal point on the space.

This small yet important act of customising a refrigerator door for the clients is emblematic of what the Brick and Gable House proves – that when the details are taken care of and the clients’ lifestyle informs the design, a small space is enough. By reducing the project’s size, committing to sustainably-sourced materials and carefully selecting the right appliances, Breathe have shown yet again that it is possible to design and build better homes.

A simple coat of white paint on several of the walls brightens the space.

Stack bond brickwork was used to give the home a contemporary edge.

When the details are taken care of and the clients’ lifestyle informs the design, a small space is enough.

Breathe have shown yet again that it is possible to design and build better homes.

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