This Midcentury Modern Home Takes in the Views of Australia
By Brodie Norris, Houzz
Building up to take advantage of the views from this property, Matthews and Scavalli Architects added a bright double-height space and a well-integrated top level to this 1950s home in Perth, Australia. Both inside and out, the renovation is sympathetic to the true spirit of the original modernist home, which is believed to have been designed by Raymond Jones, a prominent Australian architect responsible in part for many of Perth’s modernist buildings constructed for the Commonwealth Games in 1962.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple and their daughter
Location: Perth, Australia
Size: 2,691 square feet (250 square meters); four bedrooms, two bathrooms
Designer: Matthews and Scavalli Architects
Typical of many modernist designs, the original home lacked a formal entry, requiring visitors to move through the carport into an open courtyard before entering the house. The architects rectified that, designing new stairs to connect the ground floor to the new entry level. The graphic, dynamic nature of the stairs recalls an entry ramp at another key Australian modernist home — the Rose Seidler House. The stairs were designed to be multifunctional, forming a second covered carport.
Upon entering through the new formal entry, you’re greeted by a light and airy space. The double-height entry draws in light from a huge window above the door, turning the stair void into a light well for the home. This area also visually and spatially connects the original ground floor with the new upper floor. An open-riser staircase enhances this sense of space and light. To the right, the entry foyer opens directly to the open-plan kitchen and dining area.
To the left of the entry is a living area that feels bright, welcoming, cozy and relaxed. The white walls of these updated areas provide plenty of space for the owners’ colorful art collection, infusing each room with a sense of quirky personality.
A benefit of the original modernist structure is the full-height window wall, which connects the home to the garden. The living area benefits from this with bright natural light and a sense that the room runs into the garden space.
The original brickwork is used as a feature wall, drawing deserved attention toward the fireplace and original integrated woodwork. Of course, this helps tie the home’s history into the modernized space, but it also helps make the living area feel warm and full of character.
Unfortunately, the original kitchen was in poor condition and had to be completely updated. The architects took that as an opportunity to create a clean-lined white kitchen that blends into the walls. This ensures that the kitchen-dining area feels spacious and bright. After sunset, pendant lighting over the breakfast bar and dining table creates a nice mood for enjoying food and wine.
After climbing the stairs to the top level, you get a good idea of why the architect chose to build up instead of out. Up here, it’s all about the views!
A key requirement of the project was “to explore how we might be able to elevate a new living zone” and capitalize on views, says Andrea Veccia-Scavalli, principal of Matthews and Scavalli Architects. The work paid off. From this new level, the house has panoramic views toward Perth City and the Swan River.
The upstairs living area takes full advantage of those views with full-height window wall. Thanks to the stair void, this relaxed space is still spatially connected to the downstairs living spaces.
A clever sliding door means that this level can act as one big master retreat or that the living and sleeping areas can become completely separate. This flexibility was a key consideration for the architects and makes the home versatile enough to change with the owners’ needs.
Clerestory windows in the spacious en suite bathroom ensure privacy while still providing plenty of natural light.
The sleek free-standing tub and textured mosaic tiles are contemporary interpretations of the modernist aesthetic, tying the new elements of the home to its original design.
Outside, the courtyard and original entry were transformed into a delightful outdoor entertaining space. Crazy paving retains the home’s midcentury modern style.
The sensitive and stylish modernization brought the midcentury modern home up to date for 21st-century living. The decision to build up instead of adding an extension on the same level kept more of the sense of space and proportion that made the original home special, and captured stunning views to boot.