The overall feeling of the three-storey residence in Melbourne, Australia is lightness - almost an ethereal floating quality created by the sun refracting over the granite façade. This is a contradiction to the reality of the 260 tons of granite which make up the building’s skin.
The use of materiality and detailing also provides a similar contradiction in the form. The natural texture and irregularity of the split-faced material blurs the hard lines of the stacked rectilinear building. While the building is strong it sits quietly in its surroundings.
The use of three types of granite unifies the external and internal spaces. While all the materials are all substantial, when used together, there is evenness through the house. In order for this to work, the architectural detailing was integrated with fine craftsmanship by the builders and stone masons. Working together, we were able to create subtle variation in the materials and intricate details where slight change finish makes the same material fit for different function or application. In a few places this required thinking of atypical applications for the stone working with suppliers to push custom fabrications to add to the overall unification, especially in the master ensuite where a custom bath and basin where engineered from solid blocks of stone.
While there is permanence to the structure, the internal spaces are light and open, particularly in the living area where the fully retractable glazed doors open onto the adjacent courtyard.
The program for the house responded to the clients who were downsizing from a large family house to one that was more focused. While still accommodating rooms for visiting adult children, the house is centred around its use primarily by the couple. The rooms are purpose-built to meet their needs including shared study and extra-large master ensuite including a private outdoor shower in a secluded Japanese garden. This is a particularly unexpected detail in an urban property.
With a holistic approach, the in-house multi-disciplinary design team considered all elements of landscaping and interiors within the architecture plans. The landscaping responds to the clients’ desire to have diverse planted outlooks and terraces without the maintenance of a full lawn. Behind the privacy fence, giving little away to the street, a grove of Mount Fugi under planted with rosemary greet visitors when they enter the site. The kitchen and other living spaces direct sightlines to low maintenance plantings on the terrace.
Armadale Residence Interiors
Within the lightly coloured granite structure, the interiors of the Armadale Residence have an unmistakable sense of fun which comes directly from the clients’ personalities. The split-faced granite blocks that the building is made from extend inside the house itself around the doors and windows. The reduced shell of the building is contrasted by the whimsical, colourful character of the house’s interior furnishings.
The main living area has an eclectic mix of furnishings, combining classic designer items, vintage finds and custom made pieces. Each piece has its own history of acquisition or development and construction. Many of the items have strong colour and texture but they sit quite comfortably together and look as if they are part of a collection accumulated over many years. There is a casual, playful theme that runs through the items. This is especially seen in the custom 4m ring light made from hundreds of multicoloured disks and the series of Perspex display boxes which double as a coffee table. They demonstrate personality and craftsmanship but reject a more rigid formality. These items are also inspired from another time. The Perspex materials used are reminiscent of an early 1970’s Modern house.
A series of significant fine art works are included throughout the house, including pieces by artists David Noonan, Mark Hilton, Heather B. Swann and Imants Tillers. The new pieces have been selected by B.E Architecture and installed in a way which encourage conversation and add something different to the experience of the house. The two Noonan portraits seem to be in conversation with each other from different sides of the entrance foyer.
The clients enjoy entertaining so the large custom dining table is often extended for hosting large groups of guests. The living space opens entirely onto the adjacent terrace which fills with light in the afternoons. A line of curtains across the glazed doors softens the space when needed.
In addition to the large spaces arranged for entertaining, there are more secluded areas which provide spaces for the clients to retreat. A large walk-in pantry provides discrete space for food preparations. A purpose-built television room contains the distraction of the television into one space. The room is filled with a custom built-in, olive green velvet sofa which gives support to views over longer television sessions. It is cosy for two but can comfortably seat ten people. The couple has a shared study with separate desks. The study is fitted with exhibit cases so the clients have the opportunity to curate their personal items.
The master ensuite is a luxurious private space, where the use of granite comes into the custom made solid granite bath and basins, products B.E Architecture has been developing for some time. The bedroom and ensuite both open onto an internal courtyard planted with Japanese maples. Tucked below the trees is a discrete outdoor shower, an unusual amenity for the upper level of an inner city dwelling.