ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Bennetts

The brief was clear. “I wanted a light-filled home that could hide the mess a small child makes,” says senior executive and new mum Meahan Callaghan.
So when the Melbourne-based architect team set to work, they designed the house around the child. It all started with…toys.

In summary, the renovation involved an extension with two bedrooms and a bathroom above an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space. A large light well separates the original structure from the new extension. The original façade remains, along with two front rooms of the terrace. One of those rooms has been altered to incorporate a study and a bathroom. 

Kids are standing on the floor where they can

The extension has made a world of difference on how the family can live and play together. “It has led to a more relaxed and happy life,” says Meahan. “We are no longer feeling like we live on top of each other, or using only a small part of the house. We can spread out and use the house in a way that suits that day or that moment.” 

The whole house feels light and airy and ‘connected’, allowing mother and son to talk to each other even if they are not on the same level. Elements of perforated metal in the staircase and elsewhere make this possible and mean that the house does not have isolated rooms. Perforated metal has also been used outside the toy box: as a façade in front of the rear house frontage. The façade reflects most of the unwanted sunlight in summer, allowing a soft filtered light to penetrate the house. The lines between inside and outside have been blurred.

Dining place with garden view

Undoubtedly though, the new home’s key feature is the floor, which has been utilised as modular storage space for toys in large parts. In this house, the floor literally is the cupboard. It allows the living area to be as big as possible without lining the walls with bulky cupboards. In a narrow terraced house this makes a huge difference to the width and overall sizing of the living space.

“It’s about working with what you have, and finding a creative way of using this to your benefit,” says Andrew Maynard from Austin Maynard Architects, who designed the project. 

“Toys are usually scattered on the floor and have to be picked up. With this project we have provided a unique solution to this typical problem – by enabling the floor to swallow up all the mess and using gravity as our ally. Rather than picking toys up to put back in the toy box, we’ve made the floor one big toy box. Let’s get a broom and sweep all the Lego in from the top and sides. It becomes a game for the child, as well as a new hiding place to play.”

From home office, you can see the dining area

Using every inch of space, the concept or idea of the traditional cupboard has been taken to new heights in this renovation. And indeed the height of the ‘floor toy box’ is important and has been chosen with careful consideration. Project director Mark Austin explains: “The toy box is exactly 450mm high, which is the typical height of a seat. This means that it provides comfortable seat space for adults.” The kitchen bench is 900 millimetres high from the original floor level, and can provide extra seats for the dining table, which is placed on top of the toy box. A complex ensemble, but it all works together beautifully. 

Traditional cupboards take up valuable floor space, as do corridors. That’s why, again, this space has been used in an unconventional way. Last but not least, the new bathroom also adds a touch of playfulness and colour. 

Yellow bathtub in glass wall bathroom

“Adding a bathtub to a small space creates a lot of fiddly details where grime, mess and mould can gather,” says Mark. “To avoid the mess, and to create a bathroom that was easy to maintain, we made our own bathtub out of fibreglass. There are no seams or joins.” A slim, continuous gutter runs along the wall to ensure that water runs around the bath to drain. Oh and by the way, the bathtub takes up almost all the space in the room and is bright yellow! 

Looking further beyond the striking forms utilised in the extension, we find more and more function. This renovation had been thought through inside and out, and Meahan’s architects place an immense value on sustainability. It’s no surprise then that passive solar gain and passive ventilation are at play here. Roof water is captured and reused to flush toilets and water the garden. It’s stored in a large water tank that has been buried centrally within the lightwell. High performance insulation is everywhere and the new roof is covered with solar panels with micro-inverters.

Kid bedroom with many toys

There is a playful twist to the home that evokes a smile and invites creativity and imagination. No better place for Woody and Buzz to make an appearance, and complete one of their Toy Story missions! This home will be a backdrop to many entertaining get-togethers – or as Meahan sums it up: “The house is fun, flexible and full of light. It’s a great place to hang out.”…To infinity and beyond!

Have a look at our Refresh case study in Australia: Functional kitchen renovation in Brisbane.

 
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This article by Stephanie Matheson featured on page 72 in Issue 019 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. This is not a Refresh Renovations case study. 

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