A Room of One’s Own
The traditional housing model is straining to contain our changing lifestyles. Say hello to the flexible, polymorphous home, where there’s a space for every Occupant — and every activity. By Stephen Crafti
In the post-pandemic era, there has been a shift in the way people use their homes. With flexible work hours, including four-day working weeks for many, the traditional floor plan now seems a little outdated. People want more from their homes than a prescribed number of bedrooms and an open-plan kitchen and living area, starting with a comfortable office space, extra storage and a Zoom-friendly backdrop.
There’s also been a shift towards people choosing smaller dwellings with a greater emphasis on the garden. The idea of one room equating to one specific function has also been questioned in line with being able to use one’s home in a variety of ways, whether it’s spending time in a workshop, in a room used for yoga or simply a space that functions on several levels. In the past, someone who was devoted to their cars would have been found tinkering in their shed or garage either buried deep in the back garden or at the front of the property — far removed from the rest of the household and their activities. Having an integrated workshop, on the other hand, allows them to feel more connected.
“As soon as you open the front door, your eye is drawn to the workshop,” says architect Dominic Pandolfini, who designed a new two-storey house in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris. So rather than a potted plant, there’s a vintage yellow Porsche on display. The workshop, which is on a lower level than the house and accommodates four cars, includes a car hoist one would expect to find in a commercial garage. It features epoxy concrete floors and exposed timber rafters, and benefits from a large picture window looking onto the garden. “My client’s cars are considerably more than a hobby. They are an important part of his life, but he also didn’t want to feel excluded from the family,” says Pandolfini, who demonstrates by opening the large sliding door that separates the workshop from the living area.
While the Glen Iris house features a sophisticated workshop, other Pandolfini clients have requested home gymnasiums and large studies and/or home offices. Many have requested wellness spaces along with steam rooms. “Some of these things are aspirational, but large home offices have become more the norm,” says Pandolfini.
Even in more modest homes, such as a new dwelling in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Brighton designed for a couple who work flexibly from home, spaces have been thoughtfully conceived. The front room is “veiled” from the street with a reeded glass window and nestled behind a mound in the garden. The other side of this room is glazed and benefits from an outlook over the courtyard garden that has the main bedroom on the other side. “This room was designed as a flexible space that can be used for working in, for yoga or simply relaxing and reading a book. It can also be used as an additional bedroom,” says architect Anja de Spa, the co-director of Molecule, pointing out the concealed day bed that’s left in an upright position. When it came to selecting the interior finishes, Molecule opted for those that felt balanced and calm — painted brick walls combined with timber-lined ceilings that extend to the broad exterior eaves. “There’s not one element that dominates or takes the limelight. It’s more about creating a sense of evenness through the use of texture and light,” says de Spa, who named the house Light Scoop for the way natural light is inserted into each room.
Architect Steffen Welsch was also mindful of designing a “balanced” house at Shoreham, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula: balanced both in terms of its size and in having a strong connection to the native garden. The house was designed for a couple with adult children, who are planning to make this home a permanent one rather than a weekender.
Approximately 150 square metres in area, this modest building features three bedrooms and a sizeable yoga studio that connects to a north-facing terrace. Void of joinery and free of internal walls, except for the timber doors that lead to the brick-paved terrace, the studio puts the onus, says Welsch, on allowing the owners to “recharge”. With recycled timber floors and framed by simple linen curtains, the space beautifully connects with its rustic garden setting, particularly when the curtains are drawn back and the large doors are left open. “It’s a calming environment, not only for yoga but also to relax and contemplate,” says Welsch.
Mihaly Slocombe Architects also understand the importance of balance and how this affects people in their daily lives. While many people opt to cover a small patch of dirt with a vast house, leaving just a meagre bare strip for outdoor activity, Mihaly Slocombe Architects reversed this trend for a house in Coburg, Victoria. Originally built in the 1930s, the brick and timber house was only extended by some 25 square metres. It’s now a two-bedroom house with a third flexible room that can be used as a study or an additional bedroom. Part of the kitchen sits under the original roofline and now forms an open-plan area with the dining space and lounge, the latter featuring a built-in day bed framed by generous casement windows.
There’s a balance between the total size of this home, approximately 135 square metres, and the land size of about 315 square metres. “We could have created a considerably larger house rather than opting for covering just one third of the site,” says architect Warwick Mihaly of the project, which contains a single bathroom. “There was also no reason to add a second storey for my clients,” a couple with a young child. The client has a background in horticulture, hence the prominence of the garden, a collaboration between the architects, the client and horticulturalist Diana Cotter.
“You don’t have to build on every square metre of your property, even if you have the means or space to do so,” says Mihaly. “It’s important to get the balance right.”
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eighth edition, Page 76 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “A Room of One's Own”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.