A Striking Home Brings the Outside In

Melbourne’s studiofour has transformed a 1970s gem into a stunning modern home

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In Melbourne, architecture collective studiofour has repurposed a spacious 1970s home by architect John Rause into a modern space for a family of five. The family wanted an authentic and atmospheric home with a strong sense of identity and the concept of hygge at its heart. 

‘They wanted to celebrate the rituals of domestic life but allow for privacy and a change of mood — a sanctuary of space,’ directors Annabelle Berryman and Sarah Henry explain. For the clients, part of this was for the home to connect with the landscape more, allowing in natural light and fresh air. ‘Their vision was to live in a healthy home in mind, body and spirit,’ say the designers. 

For their part, the designers aimed to repurpose the existing home while retaining its historic character. They began with the entry, now defined by an oversized eave that highlights the architecture’s striking horizontality and cohesion; periodic punctures in the facade allow contrasting soft landscaping. This horizontality was further emphasised by filling in vertical brick joins and raking the horizontal lines. The designers also recognised that the strength of the existing house belonged externally, in contrast to a somewhat ‘flimsy’ interior, so brought the exterior brickwork inside the home.

The interiors are a study in balance: in particular, the clients wanted to live in an open plan to facilitate interaction minus the noise and distraction large open spaces can cause. The resulting interiors are clean-cut and unembellished, and instead focus on the beauty found in imperfection. New brick walls enter inside to masterfully frame the interior spaces, intersected by plate glass walls to ensure community while isolating spaces acoustically. While the original home was open-plan, much of its air emanated from an enclosed pool space, making it damp and stagnant. The use of glass and the internal reconfiguration better connected the spaces both internally and with the surrounding environment.

The clients are of Danish heritage, so hygge’s celebration of warmth, happiness and togetherness at home was crucial. A fireplace was a key element here, so one was inserted into the main living room as the key visual focus, its custom five-metre steel flue a contemporary take on the pressed copper flues typical of the home’s era. The design team also looked to limit the use of plasterboard ceilings, introducing oak battens to create texture. 

The design was also partially inspired by the clients’ existing furnishings, including large terracotta pots and the classic Danish PH Artichoke Pendant by Poul Henningsen and Hans Wegner dining table. These items were paired with new products such as the e15 Jean barstools, Vitra side tables and Wegner’s Wishbone chairs. 

The effect is one of beautiful contrast. Charcoal black highlights and deepens the visual effect of the external greenery, and increases internal depth and shadow, creating a moody but elegant ambience highlighted by the tasteful furnishings. 

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas

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