Studio Bright design a private oasis in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy through eight different, integrated outdoor spaces.

The owners of this house in North Fitzroy were extremely eager to move into their new home, given it’s a couple with three teenage children ‘bursting at the seams’ in their former abode. And while they wanted a generous family home, their brief to architect Mel Bright, director of Studio Bright, certainly didn’t include winning the prestigious Harold Desbrowe- Annear Award from the Australian Institute of Architects (Victorian Chapter) which it did for 2021. “We were as focused on the garden and the outdoor areas, mindful of also delivering a back garden in the inner city,” Mel says.

As well as dealing with a relatively narrow site (11 by 50 metres), with northern light from a side boundary, Studio Bright needed to consider the heritage streetscape, with its many period Victorian homes. The house demolished for this new two-storey four-bedroom house certainly wasn’t a distinguishing period gem; a cream brick 1930s house that saw numerous changes over the decades.

When the former house was demolished, the cream bricks were recycled to form the contemporary home, complete with bagged and limewashed perforated walls to the street. The other ‘nod’ to the past was the circular contemporary-inspired parapet that loosely speaks to its neighbouring homes, featuring these decorative embellishments.

However, it’s the planning of the 8 Yard House, named after the number of outdoor areas provided, that was unique. “We wanted to take advantage of the northern light and strengthen the connection of each space to the garden (a collaboration with Peachy Green),” Mel says, who was also mindful of creating a similar scale of rooms to those found in a simple Victorian home.

So, from the moment one passes through the threshold, there’s a sense of intimacy. The main bedroom is located to one side of the front passage, and on the other side is a modest space used as a parent’s retreat. Complete with a wood-fire on a brick plinth, this room features timber wall strapping one could find in a period home. “I grew up in an old house. So there’s that sense of memory, but also warmth,” Mel says.

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One of the eight yards in the home is a compact courtyard off the dining area.

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The living room features the Nemo Lampe De Marseille and a streamlined window bench seat.

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Rather than simply creating a large glazed pavilion to a rear garden, Studio Bright designed a series of outdoor garden rooms, each one thoughtfully aligned to the living areas. One of these gardens includes a swimming pool, another one has a built-in barbeque, while yet another outdoor space has a dining table near the kitchen and perfect for alfresco dining. There was also sufficient space for a back garden (approximately 90 square metres) located between the living areas and the garage/two-storey studio that’s accessed from a rear lane.

The Studio Bright team was as inventive when providing outdoor space on the first floor, with a rooftop garden accessed from a second living area for the children. They also made the most of the space afforded on the first floor, primarily used by the children, by including built-in desks and day beds along the shared corridor to each bedroom. “These bedrooms are fairly modest in size, but the large sliding doors can be left open to increase the space and benefit from the northern light,” Mel says.

Unlike most houses with a clear ‘front’ and a ‘back’, the 8 Yard House offers a series of glimpses through a sequence of garden walls, offering what Mel refers to as ‘layered views’. And while many architects see a newly completed house as ‘finished’, for Mel, it’s the thought of what this house will look like in 10 years that excites her most, with the plants in the window boxes cascading down walls and trees creating an even more verdant and private oasis.

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