ARTICLE Persephone Nicholas
Renowned German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is widely regarded as the force behind the trend for pavilion style homes in Australia that began in the mid 20th Century. Known for his minimalist style, he was ahead of his time, designing simple boxy homes with skillion roofs, generous floor plans and a natural flow between indoors and out.
Van der Rohe may have set the trend for pavilion style architecture in Australia, but Modernists such as Harry Seidler (1950s and 60s) and Glenn Murcutt (1970s on) developed their own versions of the pavilion too. These buildings were different from other styles of residential architecture that were popular at the time and it’s safe to say that the work of all three men contributed to the popularisation of the pavilion. Decades later, many new homes are still built in the pavilion style, although these days we are most likely to refer to them simply as ‘modern.’
Whether or not a famous architect designed your property, pavilion style homes are distinctive. They are typically cube-shaped, have a single slanting roof and are oriented and glazed to make the most of their surroundings.
On the interior, they often have tall ceilings and are generally open plan to encourage easy movement between living spaces. Many feature glass walls that allow in plenty of natural light as well as enabling the people who live there to see, and feel connected with, the outdoors all year round.
The simplicity of their design can make them an ideal renovation project for those wanting to create a modern family home. For example, they rarely need much opening up in order to create the open floor plan that many people are looking for.
On the other hand, their simple unadorned style means materials and surfaces become a feature and need to be good quality and well maintained. Similarly, poor workmanship or neglect will be easy to spot in this style of home.
Here are our tips for renovating a pavilion style home to maximum advantage:
Research your building’s heritage
When planning your renovation you may want to research and consider the principles that informed the building’s original design before deciding how to proceed.
If your property was built in the mid to late years of the last century, it may have already been through one or more renovation cycles and you may find that earlier renovations have detracted from the building’s original appeal. For example, previous owners may have sub-divided or compartmentalised the house.
Restoring the spacious feeling to the home that the original architect intended can be straightforward since these walls or divisions are unlikely to be structural. However, you should always seek professional advice before removing them.
You might also want to consider the building’s heritage when planning your own renovations. You could incorporate a subtle reference or two to the building’s era rather than simply opting for the latest in kitchen or bathroom designs. This could take the form of a colour accent, the shape of a tile or perhaps a vintage-inspired textile or artwork. Making design choices like these will help avoid a generic or overly fashionable look that will date quickly.
Focus on the building’s bones
Pavilion style homes often incorporate structural features, such as beams or double-height ceilings that can become even more striking if accentuated. Consider painting metal beams or cladding them in timber to contrast with the ceiling finish. Exposing brickwork in a kitchen or a fireplace surround can add character, texture and colour to a space.
Be energy wise
Energy efficiency and insulation should be a priority from the outset of your project. This is particularly important for pavilion style homes that have large areas of glazing, which can cause buildings to heat up and cool down quickly.
Make the most of your surroundings
Many pavilion style homes were designed around vistas or natural features. So if you’re thinking of adding new windows, position them to make the most of what’s outside, whether it’s a water view, a mature tree, a flowering shrub or simply green space.
If you want to increase outdoor living and entertaining space, make sure your deck or any other structure is in keeping with the clean lines of the property. Simple, graphic shapes such as shade sails can appear perfectly in keeping with this style of home, whereas a more ornate structure would not.
Choose complementary planting
When it comes to soft landscaping, complement the simple shape of the home with a generous planting of Australian natives such as Banksia and Grevillea. Sticking to a restrained colour palette and limiting the number of different species and varieties in your landscape will help ensure the house sits in harmony with its setting rather than competing with it.
You might be interested in reading about Glen Murcutt to discover his own version of pavilion style architecture.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
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