Harmony of Past and Present – Malvern House by Lande Architects

Words by Tiffany Jade
Architecture by Lande Architects
Photography by Derek Swalwell
Video by Kintaro Studios
Styling by Bea + Co
Landscape Design Ben Scott Garden Design

For many, the journey to finding and creating the perfect home is a process of dedicated refinement – a metaphorical scoring beneath non-negotiable elements and an illumination of hidden expectations, true priorities and the intrinsic patterns of liveability. Malvern House by Lande Architects has emerged from a process informed by these sentiments and the crystal ball presentiment that allows the beauty in heritage homes to be filtered into a design language that teeters at the apex of tradition and innovation.

Presenting as a single-fronted Victorian cottage, the existing conditions at Malvern House consisted of a well-preserved front built element in keeping with the historic narrative of the streetscape and a rear addition that, despite being relatively new, offered little beyond extra interior living space. This provided an opportunity for a gentle intervention to elevate the rear accretion and create an internal courtyard – an idea borrowed from one of the almost-but-not- quite perfect homes the clients had previously viewed. It was in conversation with Lande Architects that the potential to bring an entirely new and contemporary relevance to the home began to unfold. Slowly, the idea of a place that would connect to the side and rear gardens, imbuing an essence of nature into the spaces, emerged – a home that would borrow space from outside, coaxing light and air in a way that would alter the experience of the space and ultimately give new definition to its cohesive functionality.

An equalising of preservation and innovation is tangible throughout the home.

Moving through the home, Lande Architects has retained the heritage persona of the front volume while shifting entirely to bold colours and graphic material expressions in the rear volume. Unifying both is a constant dialogue with the surrounding garden.

Lande Architects is well versed in the complexities of reorienting period homes. “As a practice, we have great respect for the period homes of Melbourne,” says Director Lachlan McArdle. “We thoroughly enjoy working with inherited fabric, forms and details of the varying eras. We know that these houses are often considered a hassle because people think that they will get stuck with an old musty house that will never get approval to facilitate contemporary living.” Creativity comes in many forms. Here it has been distilled into a negotiation between respecting the old and weaving in the new, manifesting as a response to the many activations and connections that have been found between the volumes, front and rear, and to the surrounding landscaping.

Entering the home, an abiding preservation of the historical locale – The Gascoigne Estate – is evident from the meticulous front garden, conservative picket fence, iron lacework and pitched roofline. Across the threshold, an enfilade of rooms falls to each side of a central hallway, as expected of the home’s Victorian era, and has been largely retained with only a refresh to wall paint and carpet. The first trace of the building’s evolution is introduced gently in this front volume where simple pods extend to either side of the house, cajoling spatial breadth and creating a light-filled sitting room to one side and a walk-in robe and ensuite to the other. “These pods are deliberately temporary in appearance,” says Lachlan. “They are raised up off the ground and allow greenery and ground cover to creep in underneath.” Constructed primarily from custom mixed Krause bricks and glazing, the pods cleverly borrow outdoor space and introduce a new architectural language – complementary to the old in its material essence yet timeless in its design and application.

Emerging from a slender glass walkway that connects the front and rear of the home an unexpectedly elemental atmosphere has been cultivated emanating from a vibrant emerald stone in the kitchen which acts as a cornerstone, reflecting the verdant garden surrounds and complimenting the rich timber ceiling and walls.

Drawn further through, the intimate quietude of the bedrooms and sitting room at the front of the home concludes at a slender glass walkway that offers a recalibration, a physical and aesthetic buffer, before the rear volume of the home reveals itself. “The courtyard between old and new allows you to look back at the old house while denoting a transition,” explains Lachlan. Connecting to and activating the landscaping, the walkway is a tonal shift between eras, aesthetics and purpose.

Stepping into the new volume at Malvern House reasserts the breadth of possibility in adding to heritage homes. A pavilion has been designed to homage and juxtapose the preceding architecture of the 19th century. A rich and moody palette, wholly driven by a striking green marble used liberally in the open-plan kitchen, instils a cosy resonance. Nature is reflected, echoed and framed throughout in a soft salute to mid-century design. Where the front of the home was light and airy, here the experience of space is much more elemental. Wrapping around an internal courtyard is a flowing space with three distinct parts – kitchen, living and dining.

The kitchen is distinguished by its jewelled colour. “The stone informed the cabinetry colour and reads quite subtly in the space. It’s an element that reveals itself and its details as you approach and use it,” says Lachlan. Like the pods at the front and the glass walkway in the middle, the considered placement of a skylight behind the overhead kitchen cupboards is a reminder that small gestures can create significant outcomes. The light “floods the splashback, highlighting the detail in the stone” and bringing a focal point to the room. Using this as a compass point, spotted gum, brass and terrazzo become tertiary cornerstones, neither one outshining the other but curated in a complementary and ambient coalescence anchored by the verdant landscaping outside.

Just as the two masses of Malvern House come together through respectful juxtaposition, the garden brings a new perspective again. Connecting the built elements, meandering through and around them in a series of seven green spaces, the landscaping “softens the rigid set out of the house and creates pockets for the owners to occupy, like the fire and conversation pit at the rear,” Lachlan says. Operable screens and deciduous trees allow the home to open and close to the seasons, demonstrating the same propensity for use as the interior. It is this forward-thinking level of consideration that circles back to the ability of Lande Architects to find harmony between the new and the existing – a pathway to creating a perfect tension between heritage and sustained liveability.