Six great ideas from a savvy Melbourne reno

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Black magic: the contemporary extension. Pictures: Tatjana Plitt

Jewellery designer Belinda Esperson wanted three things from the new extension to her California bungalow in a leafy Melbourne suburb.

She wanted it to feel calm. She wanted it to connect well to the garden. And she wanted it to have a certain aesthetic.

“I grew up in a Merchant Builders (architect-designed 1960s) house that was heavily influenced by mid-century Danish modernism,” Ms Esperson said. “And I wanted the new house to have that same feel.”

She brought in architect Barnaby Chiverton, from Chiverton Architects, for the job.

Mr Chiverton designed an extension featuring an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area, and a main bedroom with an ensuite. He also designed an outdoor decked area with pergola, and a pool.

Below, we look at some of the project’s best ideas.

The light-filled extension is calm and links well to the garden.

1. Big windows

To connect a home to the outdoors, you certainly need windows. But in this home, the windows take up as much space as possible.

“If you want that indoor-outdoor connection, it is a good idea to have floor-to-ceiling windows,” Mr Chiverton said. “You don’t want to feel like there is a change between inside and outside.”

For the corner with the main garden views, Mr Chiverton used glass without need of a structural column.

“You have glass that butts up against itself so you lose a sense of heaviness and it creates a lovely effect,” he said.

A bonus with all this glass has been the uninterrupted view out to the vegie patch from the kitchen.

“When you are cooking, you can just look and see a ripe tomato and pop out and get it,” Mr Chiverton said. “It is so handy. It’s almost like going to the fridge.”

Windows take up as much space as possible.

2. External shutters

Mr Chiverton had to figure out a way of protecting the west-facing windows from the sun’s harsh rays, and ended up opting for two different styles of movable shutters that can be simply pushed over the windows.

Outside the bedroom are two sliding shutters. Outside the living room are shutters built on bi-fold frames.

Ms Esperson said the shutters had significantly reduced the heat in the home and “when the shutters are closed, the dappled light makes the rooms feel cool and restful”.

Mr Chiverton added leaving the shutters open during the colder months helped warm the home naturally.

“(And) in winter, with the shutters open, you get beautiful evening sun coming in with sunsets behind the trees,” he said.

Shutters on bi-fold frames protect the living room from the western sun.

Sliding shutters can be pushed over the bedroom window.

3. Pergola

A pergola has been built on a decked area on the north side of the house.

Its purpose is to filter out some of the sun in summer but allow it in during winter.

The timber posts and cross pieces add a sense of enclosure to the space, and over time plants will grow up the posts.

“Each post has a vine plant growing up it, so (that decked area) will become a little green box,” Mr Chiverton said.

The pergola’s frame adds a sense of enclosure.


The pergola can be seen from the bedroom.



4. Black

Using cladding painted in Porter’s Palm Beach Black timber stain on the exterior ticked two boxes.

It met Ms Esperson’s request for a modern Scandinavian look and also provided a backdrop for the landscape to be the focus.

“Some people say, ‘Paint the house green to match the leaves’ but I disagree,” Mr Chiverton said. “Black and grey are the best colours to show off plantings.”

The same black timber stain has been repeated indoors, on cabinetry and the kitchen bench.

“I wanted to keep the details the same because it blurs the lines between inside and outside,” Mr Chiverton said. “You also don’t want to use too many different materials because it can get busy.”

Black is a bold statement outdoors.

It continues indoors on cabinetry and the kitchen bench.

5. Wall niches

The corridor and bedroom are divided by a brick wall. Because of the wall’s solid nature, two shallow wall niches — one in either room — could be created.

The niches have become delightful spots for showcasing small found objects.

Mr Chiverton pointed out the niches naturally elevated the importance of anything on display as they allowed each piece to shine.

“The things that sit in those niches seem to become much more precious,” he said.

Small objects are on display in the corridor niche.

6. Pool

The block is sloping. This means the part of the pool closest to the house is completely underground. But as the pool moves down the hill, it slowly becomes exposed until it is above the ground.

If a pool is 1.2m above ground, it doesn’t legally require a fence around it, which is why this structure can be fully open to the garden at one end.

“The pool is a total luxury. I love going for a swim on hot summer evenings, looking out at the bushland view and watching the flying foxes fly overhead. It is better than a resort,” Ms Esperson said.

The pool is underground at one end and above ground at the other.

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