Project Feature

The Architects’ Family Home: House 3 by Coy Yiontis

Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Rose Onans

When architects design for themselves it is often an unparalleled opportunity for experimentation. House 3 by Coy Yiontis is no exception. The home Rosa Coy and George Yiontis designed and built for their family, House 3 is the architects’ challenge to perceptions about residential space requirements in Australia, particularly for a large family home.

House 3 embodies the architects’ belief that Australian inner-cities should strive for much denser built environments. Through the design’s innovative use of space, in which every square centimetre is intentional, “this home demonstrates that a standard size block can not only comfortably accommodate an extended family of eight, but do so in a manner that gives the occupants a sense of spaciousness and privacy”, says Rosa Coy.

Rosa Coy and George Yiontis pictured in their family home. The couple met while working in Paris and founded Coy Yiontis together in 1996. Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co for The Local Project.

The architects explain that the form of the house, with its distinctive geometry, was initially dictated and then inspired by the planning requirements and building envelope. An angled façade on the eastern boundary was designed in response to the set-back and overlooking guidelines, determining “a number of geometric touch points”, says George Yiontis. “The façade then becomes a series alternating elements that meet at the touch points. This geometry turns to influence the planes of the northern façade and flows back into the subtle shifts in plan.”

The distinctive geometry of the building’s form is inspired by and a response to the building envelope.

House 3 by Coy Yiontis embodies the architects’ belief that Australian inner-cities should strive for much denser built environments.

House 3 is focused around a central courtyard, making the most of every square centimetre of space on the site.

Working with an original heritage façade and the north-south orientation of the block, the central courtyard was introduced to bring natural light into the home. The new extension wraps around the courtyard, which forms a visual connection between the front and back of the property while also maintaining individual rooms’ privacy. The water of the swimming pool is a calming presence that is felt in the adjoining spaces, which expand into the courtyard, the external space becoming an extension of the internal zones.

House 3 is the third home Rosa and George have designed for their family, and a swimming pool was “a must” for their latest home.

When architects design for themselves it is often an unparalleled opportunity for experimentation.

Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co for The Local Project.

This thoughtful use of space is imperative to accommodate the extended family of eight on the site, which is not large. With six bedrooms in total, the home feels generous and larger than it actually is, due to the creation of flexible spaces and integration with the outdoors. The arrival of Rosa and George’s fourth child precipitated the design of the house (although they say this simply provided the necessary ‘excuse’ – “but really it was the desire to build another home for ourselves”). They were also taking into account the possibility of George’s parents moving in, which led to the creation of a guest suite at the front of the house.

Rosa Coy was the builder for house 3, which they say “allowed us to take advantage of unexpected ‘finds’ on site.”

The water of the swimming pool is a calming presence that is felt in the adjoining spaces.

Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co for The Local Project.

Of the relationship between architecture and interiors, Coy Yiontis say simply: “They are one”.

Downstairs, few doors define the space and “the definition of a ‘room’ is challenged with sliding doors, both glazed and solid, expanding and contracting spaces as required, either to the outdoors or into other spaces”, says Rosa. Flexible spaces mean House 3 performs all the functions required by the family, while maintaining efficiency. The library is converted to a cinema by dropping a black-out screen in front of the glazing to the courtyard, and the entry doubles as a locker room. Concealed ‘rooms’ emerge from behind cupboard doors and unexpectedly around corners.

External spaces become an extension of living zones, maximising the usable area of the site and contributing to the sense of generosity of space.

Concealed ‘rooms’ emerge from behind cupboard doors and unexpectedly around corners.

The library is one of many flexible spaces in House 3, doubling as a cinema via a pull-down projector screen.

Coy Yiontis are known for their highly crafted, detailed architecture and interiors, using natural materials selected for their aesthetic qualities and sustainability. “Quality craftsmanship was a priority on this (and all our projects)”, says George. “Travertine unifies the floor plane internally and externally. Timber is celebrated in the beautifully crafted cladding and interior panelling.”

The exterior timber cladding is echoed by the interior’s timber panelling.

“This home demonstrates that a standard size block can not only comfortably accommodate an extended family of eight, but do so in a manner that gives the occupants a sense of spaciousness and privacy.”

Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co for The Local Project.

The architects say they are “actively more experimental with our own houses. We see it as an opportunity to test theories and building materials”, and House 3 is the third house they have designed for themselves and the second they have built. Regardless of whether it is their own home or a client project, the basis of their approach remains problem solving. “We look for an economy of gesture; a single idea, trying to simplify and streamline to create an efficient and effective solution”, says Rosa. “We often work with natural materials and our interiors are textured and detailed in contrast to the minimalist lines of our architecture. We enjoy experimenting with new materials and reinventing uses for old.”

Timber is celebrated in the beautifully crafted cladding and interior panelling.

The pool and courtyard are integral to the experience of the house, says George. “We could be anywhere. The light and outlook over water give a sense of great calm”

Designing their own home, the architects say is “deeply personal, solving our own set of problems within our own brief”. The house was constructed in 2014, giving George and Rosa the benefit of living in their design for several years now. Reflecting on their experience, Rosa says “The house is a joy to live in. Focused inwards, it feels like a sanctuary – an urban retreat”, words that highlight the success of their experiment in higher-density inner-city family living.

Photography by Dave Kulesza & shoot styling by Bea+Co for The Local Project.

“The house is a joy to live in. Focused inwards, it feels like a sanctuary – an urban retreat.”

Our Favourites

Sign Up for News & Deals