Melbourne style on a budget

Issue 23 Words: Sarah Robertson Photography: Chris Neylon
Outer metro Melbourne, VIC
  • Sven Maxa designed a covered deck to extend the living area of his home in an outer suburb of Melbourne. Double-glazed bifold doors help keep heat in during winter and inbuilt flyscreens enable the doors to be open on hot summer nights.
  • Recycled hardwood floorboards and features are finished with low VOC natural oils, super low formaldehyde emission kitchen cabinet carcasses are used, as are low VOC paints and natural materials.
  • Site constraints meant sustainable designer and homeowner Sven had to extend and open his home to the south to give his young children some space to play. To ensure the home performed as efficiently as possible, he sealed it tightly, insulated well and double glazed.
  • Particular attention was paid to maintaining good indoor air quality in this tightly sealed low budget renovation.

This Melbourne renovation shows that sustainability can be achieved on a budget, with outstanding results.

Kids have a way of pushing those lingering home renovation projects along. For sustainable building designer Sven Maxa and his wife Dawn of Maxa Design, their low budget home renovation is a classic case.

The house was initially intended as a project for Sven; a chance to renovate and test out products and materials.

The couple conceptualised the new design about five years ago and renovated the bathroom and laundry before their first child, Abby, was born.

The impending arrival of their second child a couple of years later saw them shift ahead to stage two and quite drastically renovate the rest of the old house to better meet the needs of family life.

“We debated lots of ideas but the actual aesthetic was just borne out of a desire to be economical,” explains Sven.

“We really wanted to create a whole new façade in a cost-effective manner and that meant leaving the [geometric and rectangular] roof lines of the house as is.” Still, the result is a complete rearrangement of the organisation and function of the old house.

Vegetation, trees and houses to the north meant Sven couldn’t open their home to this aspect in accordance with passive solar design principles and there was little room on the east and west for the kids to play.

“We had to insulate well and connect with the southern side of the block,” explains Sven. To mitigate the loss of northern solar exposure, he restricted openings, double glazed and insulated to minimise heat loss.

Tightly sealing the home also meant the couple carefully considered the materials and finishes used indoors; “that’s where the long list of no VOC products came into play,” says Sven.

Despite the challenges and the limitations a low budget and poor site orientation posed to its redesign, this functional yet striking modern home is the outcome of a couple committed to good and sustainable design and living.

Maxa Design were awarded the BDAV Alterations and Additions up to $200,000 award at the 2013 BDAV Awards.


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Cover of Issue 23
You can read more about Melbourne style on a budget in Issue 23 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Sanctuary: modern green homes is Australia’s premier magazine dedicated to sustainable home design. More...

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Design: Maxa Design

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