58sqm East Brunswick home ‘never looks small’

Melbourne’s inner-city streets are lined with rows of compact homes, but this East Brunswick home designed by Tan Architecture is particularly unique.

“The brief was to design a small, modern, energy efficient house at the rear of an existing property for my client’s parents to live in,” says Gus Tan, director of Tan Architecture.

“Although the family wanted to live close to each other, a degree of privacy and separation between the two homes was desirable.”

Contemporary homes in Australia aren’t exactly ideal for multi-generational living, and Joss knew the house had to be “a little quirky” so he could find space for the usual amenities of a two-bedroom house – a laundry room, a bathroom large enough for a bath, and enough storage space for a couple Small – on only 69 square meters of land.

“In creating a solution, I envisioned a private and tranquil retreat, inspired by Australian balconies and courtyard homes in Malaysia and Singapore,” adds Joss.

“From a design perspective, one of the main challenges was[figuring out]how to insert a two-story building into the backyard of an existing home without it being too visually imposing — while also providing interior spaces that looked generous as well.”

The new building is positioned on the southern boundary to maximize outdoor space and natural sunlight. To make the most of the ground floor, the kitchen, dining and living areas have been combined into one open-plan space, with north-facing sliding glass doors allowing the living area to ‘borrow’ the space and extend into the garden.

“The upper floor cantilevered over the lower floor, which not only increases the floor space of the upper floor, but also provides shade and shelter for the living areas below,” Goss explains.

All materials were chosen for very practical reasons, as the client’s father (the carpenter) built the house himself. This led to the predominant use of warm timber via built-in joinery and framing, however they decided to use concrete terrazzo flooring for its simple appearance and thermal mass, which helps capture and store radiant heat from the sun in winter. Solar panels are also hidden on the sloped roof of the new home.

Getting the design for the second dwelling approved by the local council was another crucial piece of the puzzle. “This other type of problem solving is a somewhat less glamorous side of an architect’s work that doesn’t get talked about as much,” Goss says. “In addition to the council-specified route to the main street, we have provided an alternative access via the southern bypass, which has proven very useful.”

The biggest achievement is how the house manages to balance the needs of the brief with these requirements, to create something homely, welcoming and functional that Joss’ clients say “never looks small”.

“This project demonstrates the ‘quality over quantity’ ethos that I believe is essential to making our cities more sustainable for a growing population.”

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