Small, smart & detailed

Issue 27 Words: Verity Campbell Photography: Rory Gardiner
Metro Melbourne
  • Double-glazed skylights bring natural light into the upstairs bedroom and library. The skylights are electronically openable, have a rain sensor and an internal blockout blind.
  • A small upstairs deck is a quiet space for retreat. Recycled spotted gum decking has been finished with a Livos natural oil.
  • The kitchen divides the living area in two, with a lounge on one side and a dining space on the other. Large double-glazed bifold doors and a Solatube bring natural light into the area.
  • Sustainable design principles and features were incorporated from the beginning of the design and build process to transform this century-old terrace into a 21st century green home.

This single fronted terrace in Clifton Hill, inner Melbourne, is a classic Victorian. Built over a century ago when the fashion was for introspective homes, the home was dark, enclosed and small.

Aside from the kitchen-bathroom extension added during the 1970s, little had changed since the home was first built. In 2005, Natalie and Andy bought the house with a view to transforming it into an archetypal 21st century green home: one that is bright, roomy, airy and smart – saving on utility bills year upon year.

To realise their vision, Natalie and Andy enlisted the support of Gardiner Architects in North Fitzroy, architects well versed in the design challenges posed by cramped inner-urban blocks.

Gardiner’s solution was to replace the back of the house with a generous living, dining and kitchen space, and to include an upstairs bedroom and library. A glazed lightwell brings light into the original rooms of the home. High operable windows let light in and vent hot air via a ‘thermal chimney’ effect. Built-in shades stop heat admission in summer.

The home also features a simple earth tube system, designed to push hot air away from the refrigerator. A pipe embedded into the concrete slab draws cool air from under the original house through to the void around the fridge. Warmed air exits through a tube above.

The home has been designed to passive design principles, what Amelda Cox, project architect at Gardiner, calls the “free stuff”. “The way we approach design is to make the most of orientation, light, microclimate (for cross-ventilation). We get these principles of good design right first then guide our clients through the decision-making process for design features such as solar, glazing and cabinetry – based on budget and need.”

“Our clients were very passionate about this project and we loved that,” says Amelda. “They were engaged and committed from the outset. It was a collaborative process and the design has benefited through this working relationship enormously.”

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Cover of Issue 27
You can read more about Small, smart & detailed in Issue 27 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Gardiner Architects


Adma Group

Project type


Project location

Clifton Hill, VIC


Approx. $550,000


House 135 sqm (floor area),

land 180 sqm

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