Fairbairn House Pushes Materials to Their Limits

Fairbairn House by Inglis Architects

Architect: Inglis Architects Photographs: Derek Swalwell article Size: 230 m2 Location: Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Tags: Urban Homes, New Homes

In well-heeled Toorak, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Inglis Architects have worked with an unusually narrow site to create a home of rich materials. The narrow site faces parks at both ends -- a rare find that initially attracted the clients. In a suburbs where house and land sizes are traditionally gargantuan, Inglis Architect's role was to create a generous-feeling house that was in keeping with the neighbors.

Fairbairn House from the front
Fairbairn House from the front

Simple Palette

The architects' approach was to use a simple palette -- masonry, timber and stone. Leaving these materials to speak for themselves, to express their unique character, but to push each material to its physical limits. As a result, there are perforated brick screens which rely on a loose bond pattern to let light and air though, while still providing privacy. Steel cantilevers that use the material's inherent strength to appear to defy gravity. And custom timber claddings.

Fairbairn House from outside

"There was great emphasis placed on the front façade due to the house being infill between neighbouring buildings. It was our ambition that the house engaged with its environment and the individual. A key strategy employed to do this involved layering up the front elevation to the street to create depth as opposed to a flat facade." -- Inglis Architects

Fairbairn House entryway
Fairbairn House Entryway

Brick Screen

Lacking a traditional front fence, the house makes itself open to the public, but shields and screens the owners' privacy through clever planning and translucency. These hints of what's going on inside create suspense and anticipation on entering the house.

The brick screen, in particular, protects the master bedroom's privacy from the street, while still encouraging views towards the park, creates a layered entry, giving the property a sense of intimacy, and shields the home from the sun.

Fairbairn House living Area
Fairbairn House dining area

Generosity of Space and Materials

Once you enter the house you realize how generous Inglis Architects have been with the sense of space and materials. By separating living to the ground floor and sleeping to the first floor, the ground floor feels more open and spacious, while the bedrooms feel more private and protected (and take advantage of park views).

Fairbairn House Lounge
Fairbairn House fireplace
Fairbairn House fireplace
Fairbairn House kitchen
Fairbain House kitchen

Light Court

In order to create a home that felt at home with its neighbors, the house ultimately spread from boundary to boundary. To ensure light and air made its way into the center of the house a central light shaft and courtyard was inserted. This courtyard works hard -- providing light, ventilation and acting like a third park, bringing greenery into the home.

Fairbairn House Courtyard
Fairbairn House view from the courtyard
Fairbairn House view towards park

Warm and Welcoming

Because such an emphasis has been placed on quality materials, the house feels warm and welcoming with minimal furnishings. Soft, natural finishes speak for themselves, without the need for paint or coverups.

Fairbairn House study desk
Fairbairn House Stair
Fairbairn House Stair

"The floorboards, stone and masonry here are on show and the light fittings and furniture are purposefully simple and pared back allowing the interiors to breathe. It feels raw whilst achieving elegance through composition, texture, volume light and program." -- Inglis Architects

Fairbairn House bathroom
Fairbairn House bathroom
Fairbairn House Ground Floor Plan
Fairbairn House First Floor Plan

While this project is admittedly in a higher price bracket than we would normally feature on Lunchbox Architect, there's an important lesson here. No matter what your budget, using the highest quality materials and finishes you can afford -- even if that means reducing your overall floorspace -- will pay huge dividends. You're home will look and feel luxurious, will require less maintenance and you will have a higher quality of life. The use of materials in this project injects a richness and uniqueness that many projects lack.

Fairbairn House at Night

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