From the street, this house in the inner Melbourne suburb of Northcote resembles many of its neighbouring double-fronted Victorian terraces. Complete with its traditional bullnose verandah, there’s no clue about what lies beyond its threshold.

Designed for a couple of scientists and their two teenage children, one’s eyes go into ‘overdrive’ once past the home’s central passage. “Our clients had just returned from Barcelona and were keen to live in a home with a strong Mediterranean feel,” Hindley & Co. principal and architect Anne Hindley says. “They were certainly not prescriptive when it came to briefing us. Part of this may be due to their curious minds, searching for alternatives and better ways to achieve things,” Anne adds, who appreciated their enthusiasm when visiting numerous stone quarries to select the type of stone they were looking for in their kitchen and bathrooms. 

Hindly & Co. retained part of the original four rooms of this Victorian timber house, reworking some of these spaces to include a guest bedroom and a room simply for storing the family’s bikes. “Though we managed to save the front section of the house, it was in a completely dilapidated state,” Anne says. 

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Punchy colours, including a vibrant orange door to the scullery, animate the interiors.

The only hint of what’s in store is the steel and arched glass door at the end of the passage, providing a glimpse through the open plan kitchen, living and dining area. Complete with ox-blood kitchen joinery with a punchy orange arched door that leads to a scullery; it contrasts the creams and off-whites used in the original portion of the home. In contrast to these orthogonal rooms, the new wing, comprising three levels, features concrete block walls. Rather than following from the line of the hallway, the new wing features a 15-metre-long passage, complete with arched doors to access the main garden. “Our clients weren’t looking for the usual back garden but more akin to the Mediterranean-style gardens they saw in Barcelona,” Anne says, whose sculptural stairwell, with its rhythm of slot windows, also has a loose Gaudi feel. 

The architect appreciated the home’s access to southern light and, at the same time, “scooped sunlight from other directions”. A ceiling cut out with a large skylight diffuses light in the hallway, where a Japanese maple tree is embedded in the limed oak floors. A central void wrapped in glass, featuring an established tree, blurs the boundaries between inside and out, as does the use of mirror. “The kitchen’s walk-in pantry lies behind our mirrored ‘Bento Box’ which also discreetly houses the bar,” Susi says. Which also discreetly houses the bar,” Susi says, “It brings the landscape into the room and creates a soft vibration of shifting greenery and southern light.” Marmorino polished plaster walls also gently reflects light while recessive architectural lighting highlights the home’s curved edges.

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A strong Mediterranean feel is expressed in the contemporary wing, with the circular stairwell that connects the home’s three levels.

Unlike in some homes where there’s one continuous palette of materials used throughout an entire home, there are numerous treatments and finishes – whether this takes the form of different coloured tiles that line the deep skylights or the various stones used in the wet areas, particularly for the bathrooms. The owners purchased samples of different types of stones, so there’s no duplication in any one room. The ensuite to the main bedroom, for example, features a singular dramatic speckled slab of stone while a vanity in another bathroom tells a different story of a quarry from where it was unearthed. 

“This was a pleasurable project. There wasn’t a set vision of what could be achieved from the outset, and it certainly wasn’t trying to achieve a certain look. It was more about how they felt and wanted to use the spaces and enjoy the ‘journey’ as they retreated to their bedrooms at the end of each day,” Anne adds.

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