By Brodie Norris, Houzz
The prominent silhouette of the upper story of this house in Nunawading, Australia, echoes the quintessential “house” shape, but there’s nothing standard about this suburban property. With a considered composition, a sunny central courtyard and attention to the flow of spaces, this modern family home thinks outside the box in every way.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Two working professionals with their two young children
Location: Nunawading, Victoria, Australia
Year built: 2014
Size: Five bedrooms, four bathrooms
Architect: Alta Architecture
You might recognize the silhouette of this house near Melbourne from your preschool paintings. From a young age, kids all over the world draw houses as a square with a triangle on top. With a strongly defined gable form, this house is inspired by that depiction of “home.” It was designed for a multigenerational family — a husband and wife and their two newborns, plus the husband’s parents. With the unique needs of a multigenerational home in mind, Alta Architecture created various zones for each family member to have his or her own space.
On the ground floor, the communal living spaces are contained toward the back of the home. An open-plan kitchen, dining and living area overlooks the backyard but also opens onto a central courtyard. Off the central corridor is access to the grandparents’ master bedroom suite, the laundry, a guest bedroom and bathroom, the gym and a separate sitting area, plus access to the garage.
Upstairs are the two kids’ bedrooms and a bathroom that flow into a generous recreation room. Tucked under the gable facing the street is the parents’ master bedroom, complete with an en suite and walk-in closet. A balcony overlooking the front yard is the parents’ special retreat.
A sunny sitting area overlooking the front yard greets you immediately inside the entry. Bathed in natural light thanks to its northern orientation, the sitting area has a wraparound view of the front yard, making it a delightful spot to sit and read away from the bustle of the main living areas at the rear of the home.
Farther up the main corridor, there’s a direct connection from the garage into the house, where built-in storage provides a convenient place to stow jackets. The room has a built-in cabinet at seat height, which is a handy place for family members to put on or take off shoes.
Several rooms lead off the central hallway. To the left, immediately after the foyer, is the staircase to the upper level. The balustrade is made from full-height wood battens, which let light in while acting as a screen to the adjacent room.
The semienclosed living area — which is soon to become a gym — is screened by these wood battens. With beautiful eastern light and access to the deck area, this space will become the perfect place to kick off the day with a few miles on the exercise bike or a leisurely yoga sun salutation.
The next room back, and also opening onto the deck, is a guest bedroom. This room was originally designed as a study or hobby area, as seen in this photo, but is now being used as a guest space when the family has visitors who stay over.
Just one of four bathrooms (others not pictured), this downstairs guest bathroom features an urbane black and gray color scheme softened by a blond wood vanity. A sculptural bathtub makes a grand statement.
Tiles: National Tiles
Dramatic charcoal kitchen cabinetry gives the illusion of receding, helping the show-stopping island counter to pop. Made from a combination of wood and crisp, white reconstituted stone, the island is another sculptural feature in the home. It’s easily big enough for all the family and friends to gather around, so cooking in this home is a truly communal activity. This is a nice gesture that helps to highlight a lifestyle that includes casual dining to be shared with family and friends.
Floor: American oak wood, Bunnings; countertop: Pure White, Caesarstone
The orientation of the site meant that the backyard would be overshadowed by the house. Alta Architecture was determined not to devalue the backyard, but it needed a strategy to get more light into the home and create an outdoor entertaining area that connected to the interior living areas. That’s where the courtyard comes in.
“Unlike many suburban houses that try to maximize [the] envelope to get more [space], we introduced a courtyard in the middle, so that the large living area at the back will be able to receive northern sunlight,” says Fred Fang, the lead designer of this project.
The central courtyard serves as a sheltered entertaining space and brings northern light directly into the open-plan living-dining area. This way, the bulk of the house actually protects the courtyard from the hot afternoon sun, making it perfect for entertaining, even on hot summer nights.
Siding: single-lock standing seam system, Night Sky, Colorbond
In addition to being a source of natural light, the courtyard is great for ventilation. With the large sliding doors on both sides of the living area open, the home can catch breezes, meaning the air conditioner doesn’t get much of a workout. One thing that is clear from this living area is the effect of blurring the boundaries between inside and outside. Thanks to large glass sliding doors, the interior merges into the outdoors.
In addition to the courtyard, the backyard itself is a functional space with a covered veranda and a paved dining area.
Upstairs are the more private zones. In addition to two children’s bedrooms and a recreational space (not pictured), this level houses the master bedroom seen here. The master is tucked under the gable, helping it to feel nurtured and protected. The street-facing bedroom enjoys a dedicated wood-lined balcony for a quiet retreat from busy family life. A glass balustrade makes for an unimpeded view and helps the bedroom feel like it’s floating in the treetops.
In many ways this home is a typical suburban dwelling. It’s on a standard-sized lot, with both a front yard and a backyard, living areas downstairs and bedrooms upstairs — it even has the quintessential shape. But on closer inspection, it has taken a different approach to housing in the suburbs. Thanks to an appreciation of orientation and a considered approach to how a multigenerational family might live, this home’s unique take on suburban living is an example of what’s possible in our suburbs.
Builder: R.Z.Owens Constructions