A Futureproof Contemporary Home is the Embodiment of Holistic Design
The Rogerseller Series
Albert Park, VIC, Australia
The Dank Street House by Neil Architecture embodies the architects’ belief in the inextricable link between architecture, interiors and landscape. A renovation and extension of single-fronted terrace house in Albert Park, the design is marked by its holistic approach, encompassing old and new architecture, built and natural environment.
An ostensibly simple brief, replace the previous single-storey extension, belied the challenging narrow site with heritage overlay that meant the new addition could not be visible from the street. “From the outset we knew getting natural light in would be a challenge due to the narrow block width and south west orientation”, explains Neil Architecture founding director David Neil. “The decision was made to insert a central light garden between the original house and our contemporary extension.”
The light garden, designed by Phil Withers Landscape Design, sits at the junction of the original house and the new extension, spatially creating a demarcation between old and new. It acts as a light well, penetrating light deep into the house, creates a natural pathway to cross ventilate the living space, and acts as a green backdrop of foliage for the kitchen. A window seat in front of the lightwell, meanwhile, extends the threshold of the window. “You can sun yourself in the ‘garden’, in the center of the house, while chatting to someone cooking in the kitchen”, says David.
This reflects Neil Architecture’s integrated approach, which means they often find themselves “designing houses from the inside out”. Especially when working on tight sites where new architecture cannot be visible from the street, David says “experimenting with connection to natural light, shadows, views, and connection to the outside become more critical.” In addition to the lightwell, another courtyard bookends the living space. While it is modest in size, its built-in seating and concealed utility storage make it a practical extension of the indoor living space creating an ideal environment to spend time in on a summer’s afternoon.
With its simple yet effective separation of old and new, in part due to the heritage restrictions, “it is in the detailing where we think the Dank Street House comes into its own”, says David. An example of the thoughtful approach to details is the kitchen and dining room, which are combined into a long, linear space, with the built-in dining table doubling as additional kitchen workspace. While the heritage section is defined by its period features, architraves, cornices and high ceilings, the new design is characterised by its strong materiality and emphasis on simple yet beautiful fixtures.
“Materiality is hugely important to our work, we spend a lot of time with our clients, suppliers, builders and trades professionals selecting and refining material pallets”, says David. In the new extension, vertically-grooved wall paneling is used internally to extend the vertical pattern of the wooden battens used outside and textural reference to the original weatherboard house. Wool carpets, oak joinery and timber floors are used throughout to create continuity between the old new.
It is in the bathrooms that the Dank Street House’s approach to materials and detail shines most strongly. Linear skylights and strategic mirror placement create ethereal quality, while the marble lends a softness which is complemented by the Rogerseller ‘Pinch’ tapware in ‘Graphite’ finish. Neil Architecture have a history of specifying Rogerseller products, sharing an emphasis on compelling design, innovation and quality. “We’re often popping into the showroom with clients to have a chat and check out the latest fixtures and finishes”, says David.
Alongside the ‘Pinch’ tapware, the bathrooms feature a combination of imported Italian products and locally designed tapware by the in-house Rogerseller design team. The graphite finish used in the Dank Street House “has a lovely subtle appearance that goes wonderfully with the marble tiling”, explains David, “while the ‘Pinch’ tapware is shaped beautifully, very ‘touchable’. I actually have the ‘Pinch’ tapware at home in rose gold, I love the feel”. The ‘Pinch’ tapware is not only aesthetically and sensorially pleasing, but includes the Progressive Mixer, a new type of efficient energy-saving single-handle faucet, allowing precise control over the water flow and temperature together in one movement. The thought behind a decision as ostensibly simple as tapware is one small example of Neil Architecture’s approach to design in the Dank Street House. It is innovative and considered, concerned not only with aesthetic effect but with longevity, practicality and environmental impact.
If the choice of tapware is this approach writ small, the layout of the extension’s two storeys is the largest example of it in practice. “Future-proofing was the priority when devising the layout” explains David. The ground floor acts as a large one-bedroom apartment, which the owner can inhabit with all core functions conveniently placed in proximity on one level. The upper floor, accessed by a concealed staircase, contains two spare bedrooms and a bathroom for visiting friends and relatives. “For us, the continued livability and adaptability of housing stock is an equally important sustainability concern”, David says.
In summing up their work, David says “We like to think that our housing has a fairly comfortable feel about it, a kind of contemporary narrative on the Australian way of life”. This is certainly felt in the Dank Street House’s contribution to our detail-obsessed design culture, contemporary interpretation of the Australian love for indoor-outdoor living, and respectful balancing of past and present side by side. Above all, the project is a testament to the success of holistic design that integrates interiors, landscape and architecture.