Design workshop: Space to play

With three growing children, Nadya and Robert’s family is bursting out of its two-bedroom Edwardian cottage in Melbourne’s inner west. Tim Ellis of Glow Building Design offers suggestions for more space and less environmental impact.

We present an excerpt below; read Tim’s full design response with floor plans in Sanctuary 32.

Nadya and Robert have livedin their weatherboard cottage in Melbourne’s west for 11 years and have grown attached to its period charm and the surrounding community. But the family of five needs some breathing room. They’re hoping for north-facing living and dining to make the most of their love for communal cooking, while their pre-teenage twin daughters are seeking some privacy, and their younger daughter space to be creative. “We also struggle with the limited storage and use our shed to store most things,” says Nadya.

They are also frustrated by the bathroom opening off the kitchen, not having a separate laundry, and the condensation caused by inadequate ventilation. They are also concerned about cracks in the walls caused by soil movement. On the plus side, they love spending time in their generous backyard with its vegie gardens and fruit trees, and regularly use the undercover patio for barbeques. They would like to retain as much of the green space as possible, though would consider converting their front yard into a food growing area if needed.

Tim’s response

Kingsville is an interesting and well-located suburb, and Nadya and Robert are fortunate to have a house in the area, but it is not meeting the needs of their family as it is. A sensitive, passive solar extension makes good sense to keep up with their living needs.

The site

I can attest to the problematic soil qulaity of the inner west, as a resident of nearby Williamstown and through my work in the area. Clearly, the design of the extension needs to take this into account. There have been many new extensions in the area which have shifted separately to the existing house, causing cracks and damage between the two.

Up or out?

Double-storey extensions have benefits such as thermal stacking, and reducing the footprint, allowing more use of outdoor space. However, the heritage overlay often means you can’t put the second storey in the existing roofline, and going double-storey on a small lot involves the expense of additional structural steelwork. It also risks overshadowing the neighbours.

I’ve suggested a single-storey solution, which has the added long-term benefit of being accessible into later life. Losing valuable green space through an extension can be a problem, but progressive councils such as Kingsville’s Maribyrnong Council do support growing vegetables in the front nature strip setback.

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