Terrace Houses: Making do with less

Dec 10, 2018 Architecture

In Victorian times and well into the 20th century, families lived in single-fronted cottages. After the Second World War, the idea of having a large back garden took hold with the mantra that fresh air could only be found in the suburbs.

However, as the price of property has increased so significantly, the single-fronted cottage is once again being seen as an option for families not wanting to move out to the burbs. “People are realising that they can have it both ways: stay in smaller period-style homes and make more of the general amenities found in the inner city,” says architect Andrew Piva, director of B.E. Architecture. “We’re seeing this with young families, as much as with couples, who may envisage having a family down the track,” he adds.

B.E Architecture is recognised for building large new family homes as well as undertaking substantial renovations to period homes. However, one house that doesn’t fit within these parameters is a single-fronted Edwardian house in Prahran. Renovated 30 years ago by the previous owners, the single-fronted home was relatively tired, albeit the front two rooms with many of the period details intact. Rather than keeping these two rooms separate, a decision was made from the outset to create an opening between these them, using one for the living room and the other as a dining area. “If the owners start a family they can easily create two additional bedrooms,” says Piva.

Apart from these front two rooms, virtually the rest of the house on the 100- square-metre site was demolished. And rather than simply add a large open plan kitchen and living area at the back, it was decided to create a courtyard garden between the new kitchen and the informal lounge and meals area. “The problem with the one open plan area is you start to feel there’s no space, particularly when you’re preparing a meal and everyone is standing around the kitchen bench,” says Piva, who included seamless glass walls lining the courtyard. “Keeping things simple adds to a sense of space and further allows you to zone a house, whether it’s for a family or a couple,” he adds.

As well as a new wing to the rear, B.E Architecture included a large bedroom on the first floor that has its own walk-in dressing area and ensuite bathroom. And as space was limited, given the size of this site, a modest 2.5-metre wide strip of land was provided as the ‘backyard’. “Single-fronted terraces can easily be transformed into family homes if they’re well-designed and receive sufficient natural light. There’s no rule to say that families require a certain sized house to satisfy their needs,” says Piva.

Tandem Studio also reworked a single-fronted home, although two stories, in Albert Park. Located on a corner of a wide and leafy street, the Victorian terrace is less than six metres in width.

Photo credit: Dean Bradley

As with B.E Architecture’s house in Prahran, the rear section of this abode was demolished with a new two-storey wing added, also with a small courtyard at the core. Designed for a family with two children, the Albert Park home now comprises three bedrooms, as well as a home office that could easily be transformed into a fourth bedroom or guest bedroom.

Photo credit: Dean Bradley

“Our clients wanted to remain living in Albert Park. They’re well ingrained with the local community,” says architect James Murray, co-director at Tandem Studio. To further strengthen the connection to this community, the architects included a long elongated window in the new wing to the street to allow them to see neighbours strolling by. The courtyard garden, immediately adjacent to the courtyard, also allows the children to not be continually under their parents’ feet while they are either reading or watching television, and vice-versa.

Photo credit: Dean Bradley

Tandem Studio also took advantage of the home’s relatively wide corridor, treating the circulation spine in a sense like the cavities and nooks one could find on a boat. Built-in desks for example in this corridor create another nook for the children to do their homework. “When you’re working with these single-fronted homes, it’s important to make every centimetre work. But it’s also about providing quality spaces that people actually want to live in,” adds Murray.

B.E Architecture can be contacted on 8416 1600
Tandem Studio can be contacted on 9600 4117

About the Author: Stephen Crafti

Stephen Crafti has been writing about design and architecture since the early 1990’s and is a regular contributor to DesignBUILD. Inspired by the architecture around him in Melbourne, Australia, he was keen to share the things he saw, whether buildings, furniture, fashion or other stunning pieces of contemporary design. After many years of writing about his favourite things, and with numerous books and articles behind him, Crafti still delights in discovering and promoting exhilarating design. He is a regular contributor to several Australian newspapers and local and international design magazines.

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