By Jade Diamond-Haggert
Tucked away in a cul-de-sac in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Northcote, Maxwell House is a high-tech eco-friendly home built for a young family of five, plus their dog Otto, a miniature schnauzer.
The Maxwell residence rethinks traditional suburban dwelling by allowing the occupants to indulge in a deeper connection with nature via biophilic design. From internal courtyards to large windows, the well-balanced home centres around wellbeing and enriching the family’s health.
A collaborative effort between architectural practice Melbourne Design Studios and the owners, with interiors by The Stylesmiths, the house is a contemporary triumph completed in 2020. Split over two levels and consisting of four bedrooms, two internal courtyards, pool, fireplace and large living areas, the home is the embodiment of healthy and sustainable living.
The Stylesmiths were handed a blank canvas to create an interior that worked in harmony from where the architects left off, by respecting the original values and balancing robust materials such as polished concrete floors, American oak paneling, large windows and slate. Maxwell House, also known as Biophilia-Slate Home, won Best Sustainable Design in Australia, Design Matters Award and is an National Association of Building Designers (NABD) winner, recognised widely for its sustainable and innovative design.
Building on the original brief – to create a family home that inspires, relaxes and calms busy minds, with beautifully crafted spaces, natural materials and an endless dialogue with nature. Each space offers intimate views and engagement with natural surroundings and vegetation, be it from courtyards, gardens, green roofs, or planters. Natural light, ventilation and direct sunlight gives a profound sense of seasonal rhythms, blurring the reality of the suburban setting.
With that, The Stylesmiths were set to embark on an interior design journey that was centred around wellbeing. Timber warms the spaces throughout, creating contrasts against the dark stone, terrazzo, brickwork, marble and glazing. Texture played a vital role in enhancing the interior material palette. Through the use of soft furnishings, textures were selected based on their tactility – boucle fabrics, hand woven rugs, felt folded cushions, chunky weaves and wallpaper. Tactility helped form an emotional response to each room thoughout the home.
The owners were open to exploring new ideas – and were particularly keen to support local home-grown design, so many of the pieces throughout the home are sourced and manufactured locally. Lead designer Silvia Roldan (the Stylesmiths) believes that the use of colour which has been applied in every room is key to creating calming spaces that are warm and inviting. Thought the home the colour palette continues to develop as you move throughout the house allowing for unexpected surprises in every room.
Photography by Fiona Susanto | Lead designer: Silvia Roldan