Australia's Schulberg Demkiw architecture studio has recently completed an innovative new home in Melbourne’s beach side suburb of Elwood which boasts a maximum Australian GBCA 6 star Green Rating. The Beach Avenue home sits on a small block of land measuring 9 by 12 meters (29 x 39 ft) and is tucked away behind neighboring properties. The challenge for the architects was to maximize the interior space of the home and flood it with natural light, all the while making it spacious and private.
"This was an exciting project for us," principal architect Ray Demkiw tells Gizmag. "Designing a property on a site this size, with limited access and boundary-to-boundary restrictions threw up some challenges. We had to separate zones between each level and give the house warmth whilst using in situ concrete."
In order to create the two bedroom family home on the tight 108 sq m (1,162 sq ft) building site, the architects came up with a modern design which stretches over three levels and features an inward focus, concrete walls and large floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The result is an expansive 220 s qm (2,368 sq ft) home which is extended by additional 30 sq m (323 sq ft) of enclosed courtyards.
"We were limited to building a maximum of two stories out of the ground so we included a basement living area," says Demkiw. "We were surrounded on three sides by our four neighbors, so we created our own internalized design focusing on internal courtyards. The natural light was difficult to funnel through the three levels so we used courtyards and skylights to assist us."
Perspex was used at ground level to aid the passage of light to the basement and bamboo plants were planted at the basement which extend up through to the ground floor courtyard, creating a natural connection between the two levels. Limed hoop pine timber was used on ceilings and recycled tallowwood was used for the home's interior flooring, windows, staircases and striking external cladding. The home also features a sustainable gas-fired hydronic heating system and high thermal mass interior.
"Working with small spaces restricts you but makes you work harder to come up with solutions," says Demkiw. "You are always pushing the envelope. Inventiveness is paramount and maximizing the possibility."
The home's interior design features an impressive "floating" concrete kitchen and study bench, hidden cupboards, pull down beds and sliding inside-corner doors which open out to the external zones. Both bedrooms include an en-suite bathroom which is subtly separated by a metallic curtain. The bedrooms are also divided from each other by an internal bamboo garden, which offers privacy.
"I love the off-form concrete walls, ceilings and bench-tops, the tallowwood flooring and cladding, the timber slating, the simplicity of the windows, the light, the warmth and the spaciousness," says Demkiw. "I also love the mood and atmosphere of the basement which was the surprise package for me. I never envisioned it would be as beautiful and peaceful as it is."
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