It’s a light-filled addition to and restoration of an old worker’s cottage in Clifton Hill. While this immaculate design looks simple and understated, it’s so deeply thoughtful that from outside in, not one detail remains untouched. A seamless collaboration between Eliza Blair Architecture and Meredith Nettleton of Studio mkn has delivered a holistic outcome with a consistency of palette that is exceptionally calm and functional.
Creating future flexibility for a family of five with young twins and a teenage son was central to the brief. This included restoring and remodelling the existing cottage to accommodate three bedrooms, including a master with an ensuite, a shared bathroom and laundry. Then replacing a poorly-designed and tired 1980s extension with a new, open plan living area and adding a garden studio at the back, which has rear lane access, cleverly blocking views to a neighbouring development.
Multiple factors converge to make the design of Clifton Hill Courtyard House sing.
For a start, the client’s desire to use bricks from day one turned the design process on its head. Rather than design driving material selection, a critical question for Eliza and Meredith was, “What works with bricks for this site?”
“When you know you’re using bricks from the start, it influences what you’re designing and how you’re designing for the aesthetics,” says Eliza Blair, Director, Eliza Blair Architecture.
The choice of Krause Emperor bricks in Ghost was relatively easy, softening the extension’s solid, modern look, and creating a clear sense of calm.
Quality materials make up the remainder of the textured, lightly coloured palette; the clients making wise choices about what not to sacrifice in this robust palette to fit their budget. The Krause bricks pair beautifully with a wide expanse of steel-framed double-glazed windows, a Silvertop Ash ceiling (lightened with a Rensene whitewash) provides a distinct ‘wow’ factor with its texture and warmth, and combines well with woodcut engineered flooring in Voss and terrazzo slab benchtops. It’s a stunning, serene palette.
“You don’t often get the chance to do small projects with such high quality materials; the budget was generous enough to be able to accommodate bricks, steel windows and a timber ceiling,” remarks Eliza.
The clever and efficient use of space on this long and narrow site also makes the home sing. The design is compact, but functional. There is so much detail packed into a small site, but never at any point does it look crowded, quite the opposite. It’s calm and feels spacious.
A sloping site delineates the existing cottage from the new extension, stepping it down and nestling it into the site with a slightly sunken design, while capturing light from the north and beautiful views to an existing Bottlebrush tree in the garden to the south.
“Natural light was a big driver for the design and being on a south facing site, getting sunlight in was important. So, we worked with the principle of putting a courtyard into the floorplan, which fundamentally pushed the house further into the block,” comments Eliza.
Sunlight gains and differing outdoor spaces made the loss of yard space palatable, thanks to a timber deck, which draws the outside in. And a sunny courtyard in the middle of the home provides a cosy nook in winter, a deciduous maple tree that’s lovely to look at from every direction, and added textural interest from the neighbour’s rustic red brick wall.
The use of many multipurpose spaces is another design standout, providing flexibility to meet the family’s changing needs. For instance, the room fronting one side of the courtyard works equally well now as a playroom for the twins, a guest bedroom or as an office space/study at a later date. Likewise the multipurpose double-storey garden studio, complete with bike storage and ensuite, will serve well as a guest room, gym, home office or as a private teenage retreat down the track.
Beautiful landscaping by Peachy Green presents a rear courtyard garden framed by greenery, compete with bluestone paving, creating a beautiful outlook from the open plan living area. A mesh climbing frame on the garden studio wall and side fence guides an abundance of climbing plants, softening the rear views in every direction.
Clifton Hill Courtyard House is a compact design that works to perfection. The seamless, fully integrated design, from the architecture to the interiors, is faultless. It’s a timeless, fully-flexible design with high quality, robust and earthy materials that will ensure every space is enjoyed by this family of five for many years to come.
Architect: Eliza Blair Architecture
Interior Design: Studio mkn
Product: Krause Emperor Bricks, Ghost
Builder: Kleev Homes
Landscape Architects: Peachy Green
Landscape Construction: Rubble Landscape
Photography: Shannon McGrath