Sustainable home with heart - Elm St House

Image by Rory Gardiner.

Image by Rory Gardiner.

WHO LIVES HERE? A COUPLE WITH THREE CHILDREN, A DOG, CHOOKS, AND A HIVE OF BEES!

LOCATION: MELBOURNE, VICTORIA

It’s so refreshing to share with you a family home in Melbourne’s Northcote by Gardiner Architects that prioritises and inspires connectivity. The pokey and dark California bungalow was no longer serving its owners, so Paul Gardiner set about transforming and extending the home to help its young family connect with each other, their local community, their hobbies and the outdoors.

“The family at Elm St House are really connected to their local community. They’re friends with all their neighbours and we designed to encourage that, to sustain and grow that connectivity,” says Paul.

The clearest gesture that allows this was re-thinking how you enter the home. Rather than always using the formal front door, the architects added another entry off the side lane, which is defined by a striking mural. All the neighbours now know that when you visit, you go down the lane.

The mural identifying the side entry to the home. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The mural identifying the side entry to the home. Image by Rory Gardiner.

During the design briefing process, Gardiner Architects enjoy visiting clients and seeing how they live. “The reality is, no matter how minimal or restrained you may create a home, clients are likely to live in a very similar way as they always have. We want the house to match people's personalities and allow them to adapt the spaces over time,” says Paul.

For this family, we saw that they’re great collectors, they have heart. There’s always food production happening, craft projects, children’s art and toys around, as well as a dog and the chooks.

The layout of the two-story, 230m2 Elm St House has the children's bedrooms upstairs, the adult bedroom downstairs towards the front of the house, and the living spaces and noisy spaces towards the rear. There is a main informal living space as well as secondary spaces provided for other family activities. On the ground level, the spaces have the flexibility to be used in a number of ways. For instance, the study may at times have adults doing the household bills late at night. At other times, you’ll find children doing homework or practicing the piano. It’s where long-term craft projects can take shape or where Lego and jigsaw puzzles can intermittently take over. In this way, more amenity can be provided in a smaller footprint.

Image by Rory Gardiner.

Image by Rory Gardiner.

The owners have three young children and their family life, like most, centres around the kitchen. Gardiner Architects designed a large, open kitchen area that connects to the dining and living spaces as well as the backyard. The owners are also very keen cooks. They preserve fruit, make Kombucha, keep bees and grow a lot of herbs and vegetables. The open walk-in pantry, plenty of bench space and storage are all approaches that allow for lots of food to be produced.

For the owners, the outside is just as important as the inside. Their backyard works hard to provide space for playing with a cubby house and trampoline while half of the area is an overflowing edible garden and chook pen.

The deck on the upper level looks down on the main garden. An accessible green roof was also incorporated and becomes an extension of usable garden space with an area for bee keeping.

The deck and green roof on the upper level. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The deck and green roof on the upper level. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Sustainability and energy efficiency was also important to the clients to reduce environmental impact and energy costs. By having the two stories spaced around the stairwell, a thermal chimney effect is created where cool air is drawn from below and exhausted at the top. The thermal mass of the brick wall that runs down the middle of the house and concrete floor also assist to regulate the temperature. The highly insulated house has ceiling fans, but no need for air conditioning. The project also incorporates rainwater tanks and solar.

“The form of single residential homes is evolving,” says Paul. “Today, we see suburbs full of bigger, grander houses with high fences and tiny backyards. In our opinion, these houses that foster a family life conducted primarily inside, miss the mark. In terms of this single residential project, a focus on community set foundations for a house to avoid being a primarily internalised experience. An internally and externally connected home is created fostering the family life the clients identified in our first meeting with them and creating a home that is comfortable, spacious, practical and flexible.” Looks like they definitely hit the mark with this project!

Architect: Gardiner Architects

Builder: Clancy Constructions

Published with Bowerbird.

View from above showing the offset gabled roof design. Image by Rory Gardiner.

View from above showing the offset gabled roof design. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The owners enjoy preserving fruit and harvesting honey from their bee hive. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The owners enjoy preserving fruit and harvesting honey from their bee hive. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Large windows and doors allow the indoor activity to spill to the outside. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Large windows and doors allow the indoor activity to spill to the outside. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Bathroom looking out to inner courtyard. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Bathroom looking out to inner courtyard. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The thermal mass of the brick wall ‘spine’ of the home assists with thermal regulation. Image by Rory Gardiner.

The thermal mass of the brick wall ‘spine’ of the home assists with thermal regulation. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Large, open kitchen with great connection to outside. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Large, open kitchen with great connection to outside. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Kate Derbyshire