January 30, 2023


Giving your Home a new Option

Exquisite Craftsmanship Breathes New Life Into a “Socially Sustainable” Home

Incredible curved brick masonry, indigenous Wurundjeri motifs, and a Roman aqueduct-like bridge combine in the Ruckers Hill House, a unique home where unexpected surprises await at every turn.

“Our clients wanted something totally original for their home–classic, fun, quirky, and not too loud on the street,” shares Mel Bright, director of Studio Bright. “Something that took advantage of the site and was sympathetic to the original Edwardian home. In particular, they wanted it to reflect them and not feel like any other house.”

Located on the crest of Ruckers Hill in Northcote, the property comprises the recently restored corner-sited Edwardian and a contemporary rear-garden extension.

Fusing the studio’s interest in social sustainability with their client’s personalities, the architects crafted a home for a family of five that mimics a palimpsest respectful of the original Edwardian house on site while adding thoughtful references to the Wurundjeri people of the Eastern Kulin nation—the “traditional custodians” of the land where Studio Bright’s projects are located—as well as the Greek and Italian families who have lived in the inner-city suburb since the mid-twentieth century.

The exterior walls were built of off-form corrugated concrete and reference the ubiquitous backyard sheds in the neighborhood.

The project began with stripping back the existing Edwardian in an exhaustive restoration process that saw the removal of unsympathetic additions and the rehabilitation of original elements that had become seriously degraded over time.

With the period house reconfigured into four bedrooms with attendant bathrooms in traditional room proportions, the architects were free to place flexible living spaces into a contemporary two-story extension in the rear garden.

Strongly contrasting colors were used to differentiate bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bath is awash in reddish hues with a custom freestanding vanity by Studio Bright.

The custom modern steel basin in the kids’ bathroom was inspired by schoolyard drinking troughs.

“Pushing the new addition to the back of this site allowed north-sun-filled living spaces, but also a streetscape expression akin to a garden pavilion, contemporary and street-tough, but a little bit Edwardian in spirit,” note the architects.

The new concrete wall along the western perimeter contains a walled garden with a secondary entrance. Cream-colored LOHAS Nilo Rustic bricks clad the new extension to remain “sympathetic yet differentiated” from the existing red-brick Edwardian.

Curved lines and cream-colored bricks define the contemporary extension, which houses communal spaces on the ground floor. The library, guest room, and study are on the upper floor.

“The upper level curved forms come from a desire to avoid a stepped building form – the curved form comes out to make a vertical street wall and also makes the space for 2 roof decks,” explains Bright. “The curved forms gently turn the corner and allow spaces to flow and circulate easily. It’s not a hard corner and allows the form to gently shift direction.”

The curved roof deck offers spectacular views of Melbourne’s skyline. In the corner is a SZILVASSY moon jar with eucalyptus.

A linear north-to-south link with arched windows connects the Edwardian to the extension. “The link space is seen more like a veranda to the garden – a colonnade space that sits between the pool and garden,” explain the architects. “It spans the site bridge-like, almost an inverted Roman aqueduct with its water at the bottom. Its spatial use is unclear yet full of possibility: poolside chaise, veranda to a garden, even at times an indoor cricket pitch.”

The “bridge-like link element” that connects the original structure to the new extension also sits between the street-facing garden and a linear pool tucked behind.

Likened to a “colonnaded Roman bath,” the backyard pool is housed in a room-like space.

“A long linear space without specific use is an oddity, but by locating open gardens towards the street and siting the new pool behind the link, we could make a pathway space that’s all about swaying greenery and the rippling, reflected play of light,” explain the architects. The link also serves as a sunroom in winter and opens up in summer.

“The colonnade arches are turned upside down as they are better for sitting in and for playing,” say the architects.

The studio’s civic ambitions also informed the orientation and design of the addition. “The planning of this house allows for a sequence of architectural conditions and spaces that continue our interest in social sustainability and activating relationships between residences and the surrounds, with architecture that engages its context and activates site while offering something both for the inhabitants and the surrounding neighborhood,” explains Bright.

A glimpse inside the bridge-link hall that connects the period house with the contemporary extension. To mark the threshold between the two structures, artist Nadine Keegan crafted a stained glass window (not pictured) that depicts imagery of the current city, fruit trees from the Greek and Italian immigrant families, and the Yam Daisies that had been grown in the area by the Wurundjeri people.

“We believe even private houses should have ambitions beyond the ‘private’ brief and that they should offer something back to the city and suburbs; from references to neighboring corrugated iron fences to street-edge planters that softe
n the streetscape, our ambition is to animate the local context and add to the green space of the city.” Moreover, the firm has focused on partnering with a diverse group of makers and designers who are primarily local, emerging, or supportive of Indigenous people.

A bronze mesh veil fitted to the dining room window provides privacy while allowing for views of the street and the corrugated garages that inspired the exterior walls. The space is furnished with a Boyd table from KFive + Kinnarps Australia, Thonet No. 18 dining chairs, Schiavello Furniture stools as well as lights by Neri&Hu and CRITERIA.

The minimalist kitchen features Fibonacci Stone Pavlova terrazzo counters and backsplash. An operable mesh screen slides out to “shut down” the kitchen at night.

Passive solar principles and indoor/outdoor living have further shaped the home, which includes solar panels, hydronic heating, and water tanks.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods GOODWOOD boards wrap the interior for a warm and cozy feel. Hydronic slab heating is installed beneath Perini honed bluestone internal tiles.

“Small but flexible spaces define the interiors,” note the architects. The living room doubles as a music room and elevated stage for the three children (ages 8, 10 and 14) to put on a “home show.” The hanging stair serves as the “perfect ‘back of house’ grand entrance.”

In the living room: the theatrical heavy curtain is made of Grazia and co Feel acoustic drapery. The furnishings are also by Grazia and co and include the HARVEY curved arm sofa, HARVEY armchair, and IVY coffee table.

“Every room of the house is imprinted with the character of the clients and their three children; rooms are configured for the specialized interests of particular family members, yet each offers scope for temporal adaptations on the fly,” notes Bright.

A suspended steel stair adds a sculptural element to the home.

The cream-colored bricks continue to the interior and reinforce an indoor/outdoor living experience. The vintage Stilnovo wall light is from Nicholas & Alistair.

This north-facing living space with a large window framing the pool captures winter sun, while deep eaves protect the room from unwanted solar gain.

Of her favorite feature of the home, Bright shares: “Seeing kids jumping into the pool from the upturned arches. It’s wonderful to see that a space can be not only beautiful and still, but also totally animated and lots of fun.”

Ruckers Hill House elevation view

Ruckers Hill House site plan

Ruckers Hill House ground floor plan

Ruckers Hill House first floor plan

Ruckers Hill House section

Ruckers Hill House south elevation

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