When a family of five purchased this Victorian terrace in North Melbourne, the original period home was in decent condition, but the rear ‘80s extension was dark and pokey, and the garden overgrown. 

Turning to Timmins+Whyte Architecture and Design, the clients requested a complete overhaul of the home, on a similar footprint. ‘Our clients wanted to live, cook, gather, lounge, read and socialise in one space, and wanted plenty of light and flexibility in the planning,’ says architect Sally Timmins.

The idea for the extension was to react against the heavy, dark features of the original Victorian house, while continuing the same sense of volume, expanse and generosity. This was achieved by introducing a new double-height living domain that provides transparency and views to the garden, designed by Mud Office, throughout. ‘The external landscaped areas feel like part of the living and kitchen space, as it is nearly all glass interfaces,’ Sally says.

Timmins+Whyte took inspiration from the clients’ professions in the mental health space, designing a calm, meditative and quiet structure encompassing two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry, study and open-plan living domain. Materials and colours such as warm whites, honey-toned Tasmanian oak, and matte steel on the facade helped facilitate this feeling of softness. Sally describes the new space as, ‘like living in a garden, and bathing at a day spa.’  

Several changes were also made to the original section of the home. The front rooms were turned into a study and second living area, the two original bedrooms maintained and updated, and the previously oversized upstairs bathroom was reconfigured to offer more space elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, the kitchen was moved to the new extension, and internal walls on the ground floor were removed to allow a view from the front door right through to the backyard pool, through a two-sided fireplace. ‘There is something cool about seeing water through flames,’ Sally says. 

While the extension and original portion of this house are clearly from different eras, the property now functions as a cohesive unit. ‘The double-height space not only allows for interaction between members of the family between ground and first floor, but it feels incredibly open and light, almost like being outside,’ Sally says. 

The project is nicknamed Lantern House based on its likeness to a Japanese ‘tōrō’ – a traditional lantern made of stone, wood, or metal. Whether filled with natural light during the day, or illuminated by soft lighting in the evenings, the house glows. 



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