MRTN Architects

Dark Light House

Rye, VIC, Australia

Rebecca Wilkinson

  • Rye, VIC, Australia
  • 150m2
Project Year
  • 2017
  • Tatjana Plitt
  • Rye, VIC, Australia

A modest addition to an existing late sixties family home in the beautiful settings of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Located in the suburb of Rye, the original house was built as a holiday home and required additional living space without the expense of the detail and character of the existing home. Designers at MRTN Architects created a space which connects the new addition with the corner of the original, creating a play between light and dark, east and west, old and new.

Through a minor intervention of the existing home and a small addition, the entire house has been re-imagined with the whole being greater than the sum of all parts.

The original holiday home; which was designed by Peter Fawns in 1966, possesses the traits of well-planned and efficient homes that were typical of the Small Homes Service.

The house was remarkably in-tact and little changed over time with the exception of a bathroom upgrade. The clients’ favourite feature being the hardwood timber ceiling which has developed a rich patina over the past 50 years.

As a now full-time family home; rather than that of a holiday home, the house lacked the separation of living types which enables simultaneous activities to occur and the original but modified kitchen was also not living up to daily family life.

The client’s brief to the architect was to provide a second living space and a new kitchen; the budget was limited and managed carefully – not changing from the outset of the project to completion.

The most important component of the brief however, was that the original house should be altered as little as possible. The assumption was the kitchen would be upgraded in its existing location with living space added to the east.

The proposal was to locate a new pavilion which allowed for a place to eat, live and cook in, while at the same time becoming the new front entry and access point to the back yard.

Tentatively connected to the north-eastern corner of the original the addition pushes into the garden allowing the living room to frame a Moonah Tree that was particularly loved by the clients.

The new pavilion duplicates the living area size the original, providing dining and living spaces in both the original and new areas of the home. The addition was designed to compliment the original house by referring to it, but not imitating it.

This intention provides a contrast in a way that was not simply doing the opposite. Design influences and construction techniques on the original design were considered, particularly the influence of Japanese architecture, the glazed walls that are part window frame part structural studs and low-pitched roofs with generous eaves.

The addition retains the idea of the ceiling being the principle feature of the space. A baffle ceiling structure of hardwood glum-lam rafters provides the clear span structure while becoming the ordering principle for the plan below.

West facing glazing continues the line of the original east facing window wall, sliding timber screens allow the occupants to control afternoon summer sun while the burnished concrete slab provides thermal mass in winter.

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Tatjana Plitt

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