Have you ever glanced up at an inner-city shopfront and thought, 'I wonder what's going on up there?' Chances are, not much. Many inner-city shop tops in old Victorian-era buildings are dark, rundown and, often, empty. But it doesn't have to be that way!
The owners of a specialist violin sales and repair shop in Smith Street Collingwood had lived atop their shop for 15 years, retiring every evening to a dark and rundown kitchen, living and bedroom. Plus, a ground floor bathroom meant some brutal midnight trips to the loo in winter. Tsai Design helped to bring this shop top into the 21st Century: "thriving business downstairs, sanctuary above.
"Typical of these shopfront terraces", Jack Chen of Tsai Design explains, "the floor plan was long, dark and narrow – just 4.5m across at its widest point." It was obvious what needed to be done, the home desperately needed more light, but how to achieve that in such a long, narrow site with apartments shading the entire northern side of the building?
The answer was introducing a translucent roof over the central stairwell, creating a light-filled core that all rooms could draw from. Recognising that such inner-city buildings lack a garden space, Jack created an internal garden, painting the stairwell green, filling it with natural light and adding a living green wall, making it feel more like a well-lit courtyard than an internal space.
The design also incorporates new decks where previously there were none. Three, in fact! By tucking a second set of stairs behind the original stairwell, Tsai Design was able to create an entertainers deck on top of the world (or at least on top of the home). A courtyard deck off the guest bedroom also doubles as a drying space with access from the laundry and an east-facing deck off the main bedroom is the perfect spot to enjoy a morning cuppa.
The new kitchen and living spaces have been updated for warmth and comfort, with timber shelving, cork flooring and new heating. "No more miserable winters", says Jack! A new main bedroom provides an additional bedroom for guests.
"Once lacklustre, the upstairs of this building now capitalises on this great property. As architects, it was so satisfying to see how a heritage renewal could bring our clients joy while adding life to one of Melbourne’s busiest shopping strips." Jack Chen, Tsai Design
So what's going on up there? Perhaps a newly invigorated home is atop the shop.