The owners of Beyond House in Northcote had lived in the previously dark and cramped terrace 10 years. Fed up, and craving more space (and sun), they considered moving, but quickly realised their connection to the area was too strong. Instead, they decided to bring the space and light to them. Because, sometimes, uprooting your family in the search for something better is the wrong approach. You already know your house intimately. All you need to do is keep what works and change what doesn't. Using this strategy, you're more likely to achieve a home that works for your family than starting from scratch...
"The existing heritage house was south-facing, dark, cold, narrow and overshadowed by neighbouring walls on both side boundaries. Its owners, a family of three, were detached from the world beyond", explains Ben Callery Architects. So do you provide more space to a hemmed-in terrace? You stretch the boundaries. And what you can't stretch physically (there are houses on both sides, after all), you stretch visually.
Ruckers Hill, the physical and cultural centre of Northcote is to the north of Beyond House. By creating views to this local landmark from multiple rooms, the architects are able to capture natural light and visually expand the home beyond its physical boundaries. With distant views, a confined house suddenly feels expansive.
The architect stretches the site's boundaries in a number of ways. Beyond windows taking in views of Ruckers Hill, the roofline rakes up to the north to capture views of sky and trees and internal planters bring lush vegetation indoors. All of this helps the home to feel more connected with the surroundings, transforming an insular home into one that engages with nature.
"[The clients] are serious about sustainability and wanted the new addition to be naturally comfortable, using sun for heating, breezes for cooling, water harvesting, solar power, recycled materials (even re-using the old kitchen!) and integrating an indoor clothes airer."
A central void brings light deep into the centre of the house and creates a dramatic double-height space family activities can revolve around. An insulated slab-on-ground absorbs and stores the sun's warmth for passive winter heating. There are numerous windows in the house, even internally. This allows rooms to open up, sharing light, breezes and views across the central void and creating the illusion of space. The old kitchen, only eight years old was carefully dismantled and seamlessly reassembled into the new space. These passive approaches to sustainability supplement the active steps such as solar power and water harvesting.
"Their dedication to living with a low environmental impact is pervasive throughout the architecture from the high-tech active technology solar power on the roof to the low-tech indoor clothes airer hanging from the ceiling. These elements and others are all unashamedly integrated into the architecture."
Upstairs, a multi-purpose studio opens onto a timber roof deck. External operable louvres protect the studio's large window, as eves were out of the question for heritage reasons. The exterior is wrapped in COLORBOND® steel, helping it to nestle into the roofline and mimic the surrounding roofs, in keeping with heritage controls. The roof deck becomes a boat, sailing in a sea of metal waves. The roof deck will be used as a productive garden previously impossible on the south-facing backyard.
By visually expanding this home beyond its physical boundaries, the architect has managed to conjure the illusion of space on a narrow, hemmed-in site. The careful consideration of windows, openings and volume allows the home to heat and cool itself passively, reducing the need for energy for an environmentally conscious family. Are you willing to go beyond your boundaries to live more comfortably (and sustainably) in your home?