Northcote Mohawk House
The owners made contact in 2013 asking for us to design and procure a residential extension and renovation to a dilapidated Californian Bungalow in Northcote that had lost its original charm through a life of rough-and-ready renovations comprising cheap-and-nasty aluminium framed windows, aluminium external cladding, and a ‘re-stump’ utilising an old tractor tyre supporting some of the bearers.
Happily, we took on the project and after initially looking at concept design responses incorporating a renovation & extension, it became apparent that a new house would be as cost effective as a renovation & extension, given the extent of the repairs and maintenance required to the existing house. This also enabled siting of the house to be rethought, such as to reduce the street setback and to locate the front entry to the side, rather than the front of the house.
Each morning, many people travel past in cars, busses, trucks, bikes and on foot on the way to work and school, the cycle being repeated in reverse each afternoon & evening. We were interested in how a new building on this site could be experienced by these passers-by and also how the house could potentially offer differing visual experiences depending on the direction of travel. This led to an interest in how perspective could be utilized to give the appearance of a larger, more flamboyant building from one direction resulting in an exaggerated perspective and when viewed from the opposite direction, how a flattened perspective could result in an apparently more subdued building form.
From the Owners:
We love the sense of space we have in this house even though it is not large by some standards. Our old house was also 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a similar size floor plan but this house functions so much better - we are living and breathing the impact of good design every day.
The deep kitchen benches have given us the extra size in the kitchen without it being longer - meaning more work space and less walking - everything feels like it is in easy reach yet still very spacious
The highlight windows in the living area allows the sun to come through and hit different areas at different times of the day. I particularly love looking up through those windows and seeing the palm tree and blue skies - makes me feel like I've left Northcote and am somewhere tropical.
The front fence, constructed with standard off-the-shelf “Windsor” pickets undulates in elevation and plan resulting in cut-ins to allow pedestrians some passing room on a busy narrow footpath, contributing in a small way back to the street. Perpendicular pickets result in a visually solid fence when viewed from an obtuse angle and an open fence when viewed from directly in front.
The house itself is a 3 bedroom family house with passive programs grouped and located at the front with active programs located at the rear with visual and physical access to a large rear yard. Walls & roofs are constructed in timber and steel on an insulated, hydronically heated, polished concrete floor slab with new thermally and acoustically insulated walls and ceilings. Building materials are economical and robust, to achieve a cost effective, low maintenance home with curved wall forms at the front and rear along with painted variation to the external cladding.
A substantially sized north facing roof deck located at the northern, front of the house, offers sunny 360 degree views including those of All Nations Park across the road, previously a tip and prior to that a brickworks and quarry.
At 150m2 excluding the roof deck, this is not a large house and high ceilings contribute to volumetric interiors. All window are double glazed; electrically operated high level windows over the living/dining/kitchen areas provide all day northerly lights, glimpses of an existing palm tree and allows the house to passively cool at night being located at the highest section of the ceiling.
We are grateful to the owners for their trust and commitment to the project and also the builder’s skill and attention to detail.
Ben Statkus, Vern Chan, Minnie Statkus.
Photos by Matthew Mallett