A typical Melbourne suburban double fronted cottage with modest site area located in one of the western inner suburb – Kingsville with heritage overlays. The client’s brief was to partially restore and extend their property to the rear with a contemporary design in mind to accommodate a growing family. The clients desired a modern home that fits their lifestyle and for their young boys to grow up in whilst making the most of lively neighbourhood.

Project Name: Empress House
Project size: 152 m2
Site size: 276 m2
Completion date: 2020
Building levels: 1
Location:  Kingsville, Melbourne, Australia
Photography: Michael Kai

Empress House by YSC ARCHITECTS - Sheet1
Kitchen ©Michael Kai

Few of the key requirements were to have an open plan living and its connection to the garden and outdoor living as they would be frequent to outdoor dining as a family. Also, having enough storage spaces as well as fully functioning kitchen as the main hub of the house.For us to respond to the client’s brief, we approached the project with a view of a jewellery box – a ‘box’ that is safe enough, beautiful enough and it is something of your favourite to store your precious items.

With that in mind, we wanted express the new addition of the rear extension to be the ‘hidden gem’ of the house and take the modern and contemporary design style (as per the client’s brief) – and this was materially expressed with the combination of recycled red brick, steel frame pergola structure and fibre-cement cladding painted in matt black. Furthermore, the actual shape and volume of the rear extension took unconventional – L shaped mass containing open plan part of the house with ceilings that slopes and twists – intention of wanting to create much larger house than it really is.

Empress House by YSC ARCHITECTS - Sheet2
Outdoor Dining Area ©Michael Kai

However, we wanted to respect the existing character of the neighbourhood as well as the heritage overlay and appearance the house offered and introduced a buffer zone to graciously and harmoniously transit from old to new. Ultimately, materials has been carefully specified to further enhance this juxtaposition of smooth transition between the old/new and indoor/outdoor living spaces that has been created.

The notion of ‘jewellery box’ continues with the plan layout of the house as you walk through vibrantly coloured blue entrance door, the hallway containing old part of the house and bedrooms. End of the hallway demarcates a buffer/transition zone with a lowered ceiling area and this also is expressed in change in floor material – going from timber flooring to a modern burnished concrete floor. The buffer zone contains multi purpose kid’s playroom that has an open corner sliding partitions that can either be closed off to be an independent room on its own or be opened up to be part of the main part of the rear extension. Another feature in this room is the built-in joinery day bed and roof light to let much needed daylight into the room.

Empress House by YSC ARCHITECTS - Sheet3
Kitchen ©Michael Kai

Main ‘hidden gem’ of the house is the actual extension works for this project containing open plan living, kitchen and dining area. This L shaped extension was designed on purpose to maximise the available footprint of habitable space on what is fairly modest site area. And at the same time, it was important to bring in as much natural daylight /ambient light throughout the day whilst having both visual and physical connection with the rear garden. The physical connection happens via a set of sliding door, of which, one by the kitchen completely disappears into an external cavity with a level threshold offers the ultimate indoor and outdoor connection.

The project being located in one of the inner-suburb of Melbourne, the site area (lack there of) was the biggest challenge for the project to accommodate everything the clients have asked for – open plan kitchen, living and dining with connection to the outdoor living space. Whilst offering what is a natural but organic transition of spaces from old and new.


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