‘Waltham Jewel’, a forgotten grandiose Victorian era heritage house, has been transformed into one of Richmond’s finest homes. The house was originally bought as part of development plans for its rear expansive allotment.Melbourne Design Studios (MDS) were brought in to design the new urban residences at the back, and to revitalise the dilapidated heritage home.
The MDS team set to work removing a series of tumbledown timber lean-to’s on the back of the home. To the existing dwelling, they transformed the four generous bedrooms into formal living, two bedrooms, generous bathroom, and study.
The scheme has been designed to respect the house’s original heritage character while introducing a contemporary edge and ample natural light. Each room is given its own treatment to create a sense of place and belonging – each space in the building has its own feel and its own character.
This character largely comes down to how the building’s details work as a whole, bringing the smaller elements together and playing with the overall theme. Perhaps the family bathroom with its revamped (biofuel) fireplace, chandelier and wall to ceiling Italian mosaic tiles best describes this approach. When sunlight hits the chandelier the room is bathed in sparkles. “Imagine lighting the fire on a cold winters morning, while the sunshine sparkle reflects off the chandelier during your daily morning routine - a completely new way to start the day, and to rejuvenate body and soul,” says the MDS director Marc Bernstein-Hussmann.
At the rear of the original home, a set of steps leads down to a ‘services core’ (with laundry and powder room), and then on to the two-storey addition. Here, the new built volumes are arranged to the south of the block, to access “free solar heating”, and to formulate north-facing garden space. The generous open plan living, dining and kitchen open up to the sun-captured north garden through a wall of bi-fold doors and a charming upholstered window seat. A walnut veneer wall, and recessed shadowlines to skirtings and architraves make the whole work sublime.
The staircase to bedrooms on the upper level, utilises a chimney stack effect to draw out rising heat through summer. “When you walk upstairs, you arrive at an extended landing with a large bi-fold wall where you're effectively standing on an oversize balcony,” describes Bernstein-Hussmann. “It’s quite special. A landing is a spatial element that is generally considered ‘lost’ space. In this scheme, we are trying to utilize every space in the home in order to give it added meaning.”