A Frame for Living – Marathon House by Neil Architecture
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Marathon House is a thoughtful addition to an Italianate Victorian house in Hawthorn East – a characterful yet compact home extended to meet the demands of contemporary family living.
The clients approached Neil Architecture with a desire to increase and elevate their living spaces in response to the lifestyle of their growing family. Connection and privacy were to be skilfully balanced, giving opportunity for the family to come together as a unit or retreat in solitude. Neil Architecture applied a rigorous and pragmatic approach to find an appropriate spatial response. “We are always responding to constraints to problem solve and find the best solution,” explains Director David Neil.
With laneway access and a north-facing living aspect, the plan was rationalised to maximise natural light and provide relaxed, flexible spaces to support daily life.
With laneway access and a north-facing living aspect, the plan was rationalised to maximise natural light and provide relaxed, flexible spaces to support daily life. A double-storey rear addition of repurposed brick accommodates generous living and entertaining areas, with the kids’ areas contained in the copper-clad upper level. “The plan is L-shaped, wrapping around a landscaped courtyard with a connection to the garage,” explains David. This private, inward-facing arrangement draws light and garden vistas into the home, converting the once dark and insular home into a light-filled, contemporary dwelling.
Neil Architecture reinterpreted the home’s original decorative façade, archways and embellishments with a considered and contemporary hand. Broad sweeping archways form a repeated motif, tenderly referencing the home’s arched frontage while drawing together old and new, inside and out. The extension sits comfortably in its suburban context, a recessive composition of simple geometries expressed in burnished tones of brick and copper. “We wanted to re-use the brick from demolition,” explains David. “Introducing copper gives a complementary weathered patina, softened and mellow against the brick.”
Neil Architecture collaborated with Artedomus to source a number of unique finishes and products, lending textural and sculpted qualities to significant touchpoints throughout the interior.
Internally, a palette of classic materials animates the home’s sleek and elemental forms. Neil Architecture collaborated with Artedomus to source a number of unique finishes and products, lending textural and sculpted qualities to significant touchpoints throughout the interior. “We have a wonderful relationship with Artedomus,” asserts David. “They are passionate about their product, and their ranges align well with our own design ethos and aesthetic – natural, considered, tactile and refined.”
Striking Vigo Lena stone from Artedomus gives movement to the refined expression of the kitchen island and back bench. Cool grey tones, dramatic white veins and peach inflections form an intriguing landscape of colour, offset by dusty-blue lacquered joinery and ox-blood red bar stools. “We love designing joinery that appears more as a furniture item,” explains David, recalling the refined form of the kitchen island – elevated on steel legs as a console unit of sorts.
“The elements work together to create an understated composition,” explains David.
Japanese Hikkaki tiling supplied by Artedomus gives a tactile grid effect to the rear wall, framing the slender proportions of a linear pendant light and balancing the luxurious effect of the marble. “The elements work together to create an understated composition,” explains David. Preserving the home’s original Baltic pine floors, this central family space exudes a charming, lived-in sensibility.
A separate dining space is gently delineated with fine, steel-framed glazing, framing a beautiful room for family meals and dinner parties overlooking the pool. A stone-clad fireplace is flanked by dusty-blue joinery, wall-hung and offset from its niche surround, presenting a collection of art, books and objects with a sense of reverence and restraint. Sheer curtains brim the perimeter, tempering natural light and softening the otherwise minimalist expression of space.
Following the use of recycled brick in the architecture, the fireplace hearth thoughtfully combines painted brick and russet-toned INAX Fabe tiles, sourced from Artedomus.
The threshold to the combined study and living space is marked with a change in flooring and a linear skylight channel – “it’s an effective feature that draws a lot of light into the centre of the home,” explains David. Tactile brick-format floor tiles stretch through these communal areas to the outside undercroft, creating a softened transition and a sense of living amongst the landscape. Following the use of recycled brick in the architecture, the fireplace hearth thoughtfully combines painted brick and russet-toned INAX Fabe tiles, sourced from Artedomus. These brick details create a poetic synergy with the home’s exterior, establishing a sense of presence and longevity.
“The back room is one of my favourite aspects of the project,” reveals David. “The clients love the northern light and ease of occupying their outdoor courtyard space.” The fluidity of the planning allows spaces to flex in response to the clients’ changing needs, with generous spaces to come together as a family, spilling out to the garden and pool. These zones are united with an enclosed garden bordered by a dramatic archway, a point of connection between inside and out.
Classic Elba marble from Artedomus lines the floor and vanity benchtop, where a dramatic archway frames and reflects the room.
These curved and arched forms are also gently referenced in the finer details of the home. The new powder room incorporates a pill-shaped mirror and striking circular pedestal basin – the Agape Bjhon 2 basin in Grigio Carnico marble, supplied by Artedomus. The basin’s deep marble tone inspired a moody monochromatic palette and immersive interior sensibility. “A datum of INAX ceramic tiling by Artedomus sits beautifully against the freestanding basin,” explains David, establishing a contrast between roughly-hewn, small-format finishes and the basin’s elegant yet monolithic proportions.
As an extension of the calming master suite, the main ensuite assumes a lighter feel. Classic Elba marble from Artedomus lines the floor and vanity benchtop, where a dramatic archway frames and reflects the room. The stone’s cool grey tone is complemented with soapy blue-grey cabinetry, forming a soft, tonal palette and a sense of calm. An Agape Ottocento freestanding bath from Artedomus creates a contemporary take on the classic claw-foot tub – a charming synergy with the classic features of the old home. “As suppliers of tiles, stone and bathware, Artedomus have helped us achieve a cohesive feel,” says David.
Neil Architecture consciously created distance between the children’s and adults’ zones, affording privacy and separation for each member of the family. The upper level accommodates the kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms, with a generous multi-use space to hang out with friends. Elba marble and a graphic Japanese tile, INAX Yohen Border from Artedomus, enliven the kids’ bathroom. The tile’s stacked format and subtle sense of natural variation creates a playful tactility and grain, offset by the solidity of marble.
Such understated variations in colour, texture and form give personality and approachability to Marathon House as one traverses the home. The sensitivity and clarity of Neil Architecture’s approach harnesses the full potential of the site, while skilfully reflecting the clients’ spirited family identity. With light and landscape ever-present, the home offers new opportunity to nurture the rituals of living, underpinned by a strong material legacy and reverence for the past.