Hidden home is bigger than it looks

The front door is concealed from the street. Photos: Tatjana Plitt

The front door is concealed from the street. Photos: Tatjana Plitt

A commanding street presence is a term often used to attach value to a property, however the brief Architect Andrew Child received for a build in Inverloch, on the Victorian coast, south-east of Melbourne asked for quite the opposite.

"This project was unique in that it's a house that attempts to minimise its street presence," he said.

"The unique qualities of the discrete site are harnessed to provide a secluded and relatively modest street presence before the home opens to a surprisingly wider, higher and lighter rear.

It's larger than it looks," Andrew said.

The clients were a retired couple who are keen gardeners. They were seeking a private and robust, yet comfortable, new coastal home with a separate bedroom wing for visiting children, grandchildren and friends.

They were relocating from a nearby farm which was located at the the end of a dead end gravel road, with the farmhouse itself at the end of a long winding driveway.

Silvertop ash timber cladding was used so that it would weather enabling the house to blend into the surrounding vegetation.

Silvertop ash timber cladding was used so that it would weather enabling the house to blend into the surrounding vegetation.

"The owners valued some degree of privacy and isolation. When it came time to leave the property and relocate to Inverloch, it was interesting that they chose a narrow fronted, relatively secluded block at the end of a dead end street," Andrew said.

The brief had four main aims:

  1. provide a private sanctuary;
  2. provide a home for the two of them that also had the capacity to house visiting children, grandchildren and guests without feeling empty when it was just the two of them;
  3. provide a home that fostered their shared passion for gardening; and
  4. home to be low maintenance, robust, light, quiet, relaxed and understated.

To achieve the sanctuary, Andrew designed a guest wing that could be used as a buffer between the main body of the house and the street, and also concealed the front door and other windows of the house from the street.

In addition, several large local trees and much of the local tea tree was retained in the front yard to help conceal the house from the street and silvertop ash timber cladding was used so that it would weather enabling the house to blend into the surrounding vegetation.

To accommodate guests, Andrew said that the main body of the house operates as a generous single level one bedroom house with the capacity to open up a "secret" door to the guest wing when additional bedrooms and bathrooms are required.

"The main body of the house is prioritised with higher ceilings and with all spaces having north facing windows and gardens," he said.

Three distinct north facing areas allow the owners to create a different garden in each.

Three distinct north facing areas allow the owners to create a different garden in each.

The rear internal spaces all have access to northern sun and dedicated outside spaces, where the owners have been able to create and nurture their gardens.

Andrew created these spaces through the use of a pergola, positioning of the water tank and also with specific window orientations.

"This allowed for three distinct north facing areas so the owners could create a different garden in each. One area is addressed by the main living spaces, one serves the study and the third serves the main bedroom," Andrew said.

"Several large local trees and much of the local tea tree was retained in the front yard enabling the owners to treat this as an area for indigenous planting."

The house also ticks several sustainability boxes, creating a comfortable space in a location that can be blasted with cold southery winds.

"The masonry floors adjacent north facing windows provide excellent thermal mass to absorb and provide heat from northern winter sun," Andrew said. The windows were carefully sized and positioned relative to each room size to maximise solar gain while minimising heat loss.

The property also features solar hot water, rainwater collection, double glazing with low e-thermal coating throughout and all external walls are double stud thickness enabling two layers of insulation.

"The result is a home that provides secluded and tranquil spaces for the couple with a capacity to open up to the guest wing at the front as required," Andrew said.

The masonry floors adjacent north facing windows provide excellent thermal mass to absorb and provide heat from northern winter sun.

The masonry floors adjacent north facing windows provide excellent thermal mass to absorb and provide heat from northern winter sun.