Designing a brand new house in an streetscape dominated by heritage homes is a major architectural challenge. In the case of this project in Fairfield (six kilometres north-east of the Melbourne CBD), however, there was little other option. The rundown weatherboard house on site needed replacing, and the clients didn’t wish to contribute to the growing number of unsympathetic new builds in the area. MRTN Architects were brought on to balance these requirements, creating a contemporary home that impressively and seamlessly nestles into its local context.

Key to this home’s success is its roof form, that mirrors the hip and gable forms common to the area, while concealing an innovative second storey. MRTN Architects director Antony Martin explains, ‘These roofs largely create the character of the neighbourhood, and were an important reference for how this new house design would fit in with its established neighbours.’

This project was also inspired by the client’s previous interest in purchasing a house in the outer suburbs by architect Alistair Knox. While they eventually chose to settle closer to the city, the family appreciated the often rambling, farmhouse layouts of Knox’s homes, which contain spaces for both quiet and communal use. ‘Therefore, in developing the plan, we looked at rambling country home plans – plans that are a collection of smaller spaces, rather than expansive open-plan homes that would not suit a need to be together and together apart,’ says Antony. ‘We viewed the house as if we had relocated a rambling farmhouse into the city.’

The farmhouse influence is immediately evident in the dramatic entranceway, which allows the family to park their bikes and dump their bags before entering the ‘proper’ house. The interior palette was similarly inspired by Alistair Knox homes, adopting an eclectic and varied use of brick, timber and stone throughout. 

While the look of this house is very much underpinned by older architectural styles, there’s a contemporary sensibility in the way it opens to the sun and garden. The project also supports low energy consumption via the integration of hydronic heating and heat pump systems. We can see why it’s nicknamed the ‘Good Life House!’



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