Parkville House is a handsome two-storey Victorian terrace in Melbourne’s sleepy cityfringe suburb of the same name. Sandwiched between neighbouring dwellings of similar typologies and eras, its street presence is strong, yet its internal layout and finishes required work to meet the clients’ preferences and patterns of living. As such, Placement has assessed this home on its existing merits, delivering a light heritage refurbishment that offers openness and intimacy in pleasing and equal measure.
The clients purchased this character home with a view to growing into it throughout their children’s teenage years. Having renovated their previous home in Fitzroy North, they were well versed in the particulars of an architectural service and approached Placement to conceive a sensitive refurbishment that would respond to their next stage of life. As Placement Director Jacqueline O’Brien explains, “the clients valued how the existing home more or less contained the ideal amount of volume for the family to grow into, but it wasn’t particularly functional, and it wasn’t their aesthetic.” As such, the studio focused on managing significant remedial works, bringing clarity to the interiors and re-evaluating the rear half of the ground floor to increase access to natural light and enhance connection to the outdoors.
In response to the clients’ changing family dynamic, they were eager to move away from large open plan living spaces and instead pursue more intimate areas for “deliberate communal gathering and entertaining,” Jacqueline explains. This rationale, which accommodates the needs of the clients’ children in tandem with their desire to entertain more, informed the architects’ response to the rear. As a result, the kitchen and dining areas are relatively open in plan yet quiet and considered in experience, and each of the bedrooms are private retreats with respective ensuites.
The kitchen, which sits in the centre of the home, is both a space to traverse and one in which to pause. A large island bench anchors the space and custom timber cabinetry lines the walls. Cleverly, the architects borrowed space from the previously dark and unused adjacent lightwell, punching the far elevation out and adding a large bay window, which “bathes the internal space in warm northern light.” Linked via a door, it operates as a service court and kitchen garden, allowing for views to greenery and increased connection with landscape – a challenge frequently encountered in terrace typologies.
“We love playing with built-in elements, especially on a constrained site where we’re trying to achieve quite a lot,” Jacqueline offers. “In this case, we’ve collapsed the distinction between the dining and living area. For us, it’s an important compression of these spaces which reflects our economical use of the existing footprint.”
Tucked into the furthest corner of the rear beneath a picture window is the dining area. This window serves many functions; as Jacqueline explains, “it provides some relief to the dining space as well as a sightline to the front door.” Deliberately compact and deeply considered in its detailing and execution, the dining nook features a leather banquette wrapping the wall and loose chairs around a large dining table. “We love playing with built-in elements, especially on a constrained site where we’re trying to achieve quite a lot,” Jacqueline offers. “In this case, we’ve collapsed the distinction between the dining and living area. For us, it’s an important compression of these spaces which reflects our economical use of the existing footprint.” Opposite the dining table, a Carrara marble hearth – a nod to the home’s original marble mantles – and a record station make for a space that effortlessly accommodates evenings with friends or afternoons at home as a family.
A bold and consistent approach to the palette brings flair and visual interest to this old Victorian. It also helps to delineate the spaces and bring personality to the interior. Inspired by English pubs and conservatories, the kitchen is almost entirely coated in plantation green with deeply veined emerald marble bench tops, which, as Jacqueline notes, “was a way of playing with colour without being fantastical.” As well as this, the master bedroom features navy walls and superbly detailed, timber-framed joinery inlaid with woven wallpaper in the same shade – a nod to the decorative use of wall coverings in traditional Victorian buildings. Jacqueline notes, “it’s a contemporary reflection of a heritage detail, and it creates a sense of opulence within the joinery.” In the ensuite, a punchy, brick red hue is warming, and mosaic tiling references the home’s heritage.
Upstairs in the children’s quarters, the colour palette is deliberately toned down and both bedrooms are crisp and light in their neutral palettes. “There’s a similar story in the detailing but different colour palettes to the rooms below with blue, white and grey; it’s quite fresh but there are elements of mood,” Jacqueline describes. In the previously dark bedroom at the rear, the architects have harnessed an architectural response in designing a concealed bay window that cranks to the north. Its glazed side and top allow northern light to stream into the space whilst the solid face provides privacy from high-rise neighbours across the way. Finally, the crank creates additional volume that makes space for a desk. “This elevation didn’t lend itself well to a big window with a privacy screen, so it was an opportunity for us to respond architecturally to bring the light in,” Jacqueline says, adding, “it’s quite an elusive form but it’s subtle and really enhances the soft internal light.”
The approach taken towards this abstract bay window represents the project’s prevailing essence of thoughtful changes realised with a light yet impactful touch. As a result, the home still expresses much of its original character, yet the measured additions and reworkings – such as the glazed insertions, custom joinery to conceal utilities and notable nods to the home’s heritage – are why Parkville House will endure for another 150 years with its integrity firmly intact.