Nestled among the McMansions and mock Georgian townhouses of the Melbourne suburb of Kew, Charles House is strikingly different, not only in aesthetics but functionality too. Designed to service a family for at least the next 25 years, this highly original new build is intended to accommodate the ever-changing needs of its inhabitants and eventually house grandparents too.
“They wanted a home that could adapt to their young children’s needs as they grew into adulthood, and a place where they could comfortably accommodate grandparents in the near future. They asked for a practical, low maintenance house and garden, filled with light and water features and blurred distinctions between the indoors and outdoors,” says the architect responsible for the project, Andrew Maynard of Austin Maynard architects.
The ground floor layout offers fabulous flexibility and features a music/living room plus a student den or granny flat/apartment complete with its own bathroom and wheelchair-friendly garden access. “This is a truly adaptable space that can either extend the family’s living areas, or be closed off to be its own independent zone. For now, this space is for the family to share music, to read and to rest but in a few years, it will become a home to grandparents,” says Andrew.
Upstairs, all the rooms can be opened up or isolated depending on requirements. “Upstairs, the kid’s bedrooms open up to each other, onto hallways and the living area, as well as the study. As the children grow and change, their spaces can adapt to suit their level of engagement with their home and their family,” says Andrew. The parent’s retreat is separated entirely, accessible via a bridge.
From the outside, the most striking design feature is the use of slate cladding – a council building covenant demanded that any new home built on the site had to be clad in the material (perhaps as a nod to the older homes in the area that feature slate roofs). “The beauty, skill and detail usually lost to the sky up on the roof, can be appreciated close up,” says Andrew who engaged seasoned craftsman to clad the home’s exterior and some interior surfaces too. “They were excited by the challenges of applying their craft to vertical walls, rather than just the roof. Each of the patterns used on the various facades are patterns recommended by the contractors, from their years of experience working with slate,” says Andrew.
And, given the state of the economy, it’s highly possible that we will see more of this type of dwelling — something that isn’t lost on Andrew. “Multi-generational housing is a double-edged sword. It is wonderful in many ways – a diverse family home is often a healthy family home. However, multi-generational homes also reflect the nature of our economy and the dire consequences of housing un-affordability,” says Andrew.
Photography: Peter Bennetts