Navigating a tricky site, Mihaly Slocombe turns a lackluster cottage into a luminous, eco-friendly family home.

The living areas in the rear extension connect to the garden, which features a terrace sheltered by cross-laminated timber pergola clad in translucent fiberglass.

Newlyweds Frank and Amy fell in love with a gorgeously detailed, Art Deco–style home from the 1930s in the coveted backstreets of Melbourne’s leafy Kew, but they knew a renovation was in the cards to turn the dark, camped cottage into a comfortable home for their future children. So, they turned to the architects at Mihaly Slocombe.

Deco House is one of six mirrored Art Deco cottages in the neighborhood. Although the historic building is not protected by a heritage overlay, Mihaly Slocombe thoughtfully preserved the front half of the original and added a sympathetic red-brick extension in the rear with space for a garage.

Deco House is one of six mirrored Art Deco cottages in the neighborhood. Although the historic building is not protected by a heritage overlay, Mihaly Slocombe thoughtfully preserved the front half of the original and added a sympathetic red-brick extension in the rear with space for a garage.

Tatjana Plitt

The original 1,120-square-foot house had three bedrooms and a bath, but its inefficient layout rendered one of the bedrooms unusable. Central elements of the redesign were an improved floor plan, greater access to light, and a extension that divided the home into three zones: the adult retreat within the original cottage, the family living areas on the ground floor of the addition, and the two kids’ bedrooms and a bath on the floor above.

The new and old parts of Deco House meet at the hidden side entry—now the main entrance—on the shared driveway. It opens to the home’s sole double-height space with the living areas in the new extension to the left and the main bedroom in the original 1930s cottage on the right.

The new and old parts of Deco House meet at the hidden side entry—now the main entrance—on the shared driveway. It opens to the home’s sole double-height space with the living areas in the new extension to the left and the main bedroom in the original 1930s cottage on the right.

Tatjana Plitt

“The layout for Deco House came to us very easily, but finding the right three-dimensional form was a huge challenge,” say the architects, who nearly doubled the footprint of the home to 2,142 square feet. “We sought to simultaneously imbue the home with its Art Deco–inspired character, address passive solar design principles, resolve unusual siting requirements, and comply with difficult town planning conditions.”

Siting was a challenge due to tight setbacks from a neighbor to the south, while a shared driveway to the north necessitated a careful balancing act between privacy and outlook.

Negotiating these realities and meeting maximum building envelope permissions, Mihaly Slocombe created a stepped, bullnose roof and curved forms that help ground the light-filled, two-story addition in the Art Deco era.

“As an interesting note, if we had squared off the building form, we wouldn’t have been able to comply with the setbacks,” note the architects. “So the curved roofs were both contextual and tactical!”

Tatjana Plitt

See the full story on Dwell.com: An Art Deco–Inspired Extension Graces a 1930s Cottage in Melbourne
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