Curtain Call

In the Melbourne suburb of Kew, this Victorian house honours the legacy of its 130-year-old structure, while a modern addition brings added transparency and functionality. According to Matt Gibson, director of his eponymous studio, the design team opened up and repurposed the interior spaces — spread over 383 square metres — to provide ‘a more fluid and flexible spatial arrangement.’

Built on a 1,000-square-metre plot, the house is surrounded by garden and newly installed sliding glass doors that fully open up. Inside, an airy living area includes a sleek kitchen, which connects to the dining room through a large opening in the brick wall. Behind the dining room, a new cosy family room features darker tones with impressive floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The family's bedrooms are on the upper level.

‘The process of renovation allowed for the act of revealing, exposing the history of the existing building by tracing the original materials and the history of alterations over time,’ says Gibson. The distinction between old and new is clearly visible and helps to create interesting contrasts. ‘Spaces and eras are distinguishable yet able to bleed into each other, allowing subtle connectivity. Each space, while unique, continues a dialogue that's integral to the story of the whole.’

From the exterior, a uniquely woven stainless steel mesh curtain catches the eye. Just beyond, lead designer and project architect Erica Tsuda built off the Japaneses architectural concepts of hiro-en and engawa — referring to deep verandas in traditional Japanese structures — to create a seamless indoor-outdoor transition and sheltered area for year-round use. The result is 'a free flowing and kinetic foil' that offsets the otherwise-permanence and solidity of the heritage structure, according to Gibson. 'A functional device at its core, the curtain provides an invigorating spatial blurring — layering and overlapping notions of interior and exterior, and through its translucency offers a counterpoint of exposure or enclosure depending on how light falls on it.'

Shortlisted in the Heritage category for the Australian Institute of Architects annual awards, this project exemplifies how architecture can be adapted to contemporary life in a subtle and respectful way.

Text / Karine Monie
Images / Shannon McGrath