South Yarra Villa
The renovation involved alterations and additions to a triple-width 1860s Italianate villa with frontages to both front and rear streets. As was typical of the period, the existing building was orientated with the principal living rooms facing the front street while the back of the house was given over to the kitchen and servants quarters. This resulted in living spaces that were without direct access to the kitchen, devoid of sunlight and with little visual connection to the garden. Furthermore, the two existing bedrooms were considered inadequately scaled in relation to the size and extent of the living spaces and insufficient in number for a family home. In other words, none of the prerequisites of modern living existed.
The existing building had been developed in three phases: the original villa completed in 1860 with an Italianate front verandah, the addition of a bay window and rooms at the rear of the villa during the 1910s, the addition of a garage and service tower containing existing kitchen and laundry facilities during the 1970s. However, the most characteristic additions were the Arts and Crafts elements carried out during the Edwardian era that gave the building a carefully balanced asymmetry to the rear elevation.
The owners required an additional two bedrooms, family room, service flat, storage space and a larger garage (with more direct access to the living spaces) whilst reorganising the existing spaces in a way that was more appropriate to a contemporary lifestyle.
The demolition of the service tower and garage and the retention of the Edwardian Arts and Crafts elements provided clues for the new work which accommodates the additional spaces in a two-storey wing extending to the back street and repeating the architectural language of the rear, much in the manner of an English country house. The extension repeats the hipped gable forms and dark natural slate of the existing roof in the same alignment but stepped down bringing the tall two-storey scale of the existing house to a more compatible scale with the back street. A series of dormer windows allows bedrooms and bathrooms to occupy the new roof which terminates in a giant dormer accommodating the service flat overlooking the back street and brings the roof down to single-storey. At the lower level a new family room formed from an existing living room entered off the front entrance hall enjoys direct access to the garden and northern sunlight filtered through a monumental pergola that serves as a focus for the garden.
The intention throughout the project was to render the new work so discretely as to appear as if it had always formed a part of the original building; that the new work had always been there and that the original building has never been any different.