Charles House: an adaptable, multi-generational home

The clients wanted a house they could live in for at least 25 years. They wanted a home that would grow with the family, anticipating and accommodating different needs at each stage. They wanted a home that could adapt to their young children’s needs as they grew into adulthood, and a place where they could comfortably accommodate grandparents in the near future. They asked Austin Maynard Architects for a practical, low maintenance house and garden, filled with light and water features and blurred distinctions between the indoors and outdoors.

Charles House is sited in the upmarket suburb of Kew, Melbourne, on a street lined with McMansions and mock Georgian townhouses. Whilst some neighbouring buildings compete for attention and status, Austin Maynard Architects’ challenge was to create a home that didn’t dominate the street and was imbedded in gardens. They aimed to create a home that didn’t have a tall defensive fence, but instead offered openness and life to the street.

The house is sited on the southern edge of an east/west block, to provide all the living spaces northern sun and direct access to the garden. The garden runs from the street to the school sports fields at the rear of the site, rethinking the suburban backyard and allowing a visual connection through, creating a continuous green strip.

Intended to house a family of five, plus grandparents, Charles is a large home relative to the architects’ other projects, yet it is small compared to many of its neighbours. To break down the large mass, a number of forms are linked together, each given their own personality by using different slate patterns. Two sections of these forms are lined with bridges and ponds that run out to the garden. The external slate cladding flows through inside in certain areas, which reinforces the separation further.

The ground floor layout of Charles offers flexibility of space and function. A music/ living room, a student den or a Granny flat/apartment – with its own bathroom & direct, wheelchair-friendly, garden access. This is a truly adaptable space that can either extend the families living areas, or be closed off to be its own independent zone. For now this space is for the family to share music, to read and to rest. In a few years it will become a home to Grandparents.

Upstairs, the kid’s bedrooms open up to each other, onto hallways and the living area, as well as the study. All spaces can be opened up or isolated, according to ages/functions/uses. As the children grow and change their spaces can adapt to suit their level of engagement with their home and their family. The parent’s room, with walk-in-robe and ensuite, is separated visually and physically, as it’s accessed via a bridge.

With its double stud walls, bulk insulation, solar array, water collection, double glazing, adjustable sun shading and siting, Charles is one of Austin Maynard Architects’ most sustainable homes.

Rather than simply extruding the existing structure, the architects have and run the new form along the southern boundary, so that it is bathed in northern sunlight. Windows are all double glazed and have protection – awnings, external blinds and adjustable louvres – designed to optimise passive solar gain in winter whilst minimising solar gain in summer, thereby drastically reducing demands on mechanical heating and cooling. The ponds offer further passive evaporative cooling. Solar panels with micro-inverters cover parts of the new roof and water tanks provide ample water for the gardens and the toilets. High performance insulation is everywhere. Where possible they have sourced local trades, materials and fittings.





Info and images courtesy of Austin Maynard Architects

Photography is by Peter Bennetts Studio

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