The rear of the home, like the front, is simple and restrained. Pictures: Tatjana Plitt
THIS Thornbury new build proves you don’t necessarily need the budget of the ultra-wealthy to deliver on style — or energy efficiency, architectural design and a harmonious neighbourhood feel.
All of the above usually come with a steep price tag.
But the bill for this home, designed by Bent Architecture and built by Poles-A-Part Design & Construction, came in at $530,000.
Not bad, considering there are three bedrooms, a study, an internal courtyard and two bathrooms, as well as a concealed second storey.
“It punches above its weight in terms of its size and its budget,” Bent Architecture director Paul Porjazoski said.
“It’s cost effective and compact in a market dominated by run-of-the-mill, uninspiring housing at one end and trophy houses at the other.”
The new home’s open-plan living hub is wonderfully light. Artwork on left: Jeannie Mills Pwerle
The owners looked into keeping the original weatherboard on the site, but it was so rundown that returning it to life would have required a significant amount of money.
Starting again made more sense.
“It enabled the owner to get the house’s orientation on the block right and make the most out of the north-facing aspect,” Mr Porjazoski said.
“They wanted something that was contemporary, sympathetic to the other homes and didn’t stand out.”
The last point was especially important. The owners didn’t want the home to be much bigger than the original home’s footprint and were prepared to go without a second garage or extra living space to ensure the house stayed compact.
“We didn’t want an oversized home with unused wasted space,” the owner said. “Smaller homes are more economical to build, heat and cool.”
Here, we look at eight of the home’s highlights.
1. Sustainable features
Starting from scratch meant the owners could choose the orientation of their home and take advantage of the sun and breezes through passive solar design.
This solves a lot of heating and cooling problems, according to Mr Porjazoski.
“The starting point for sustainability is always orientation, so we maximised northern edges and exposure to light to passively warm the house in winter,” he said.
“We built eaves to block out the summer sun and ensured windows were directly opposite each other to allow for cross-ventilation cooling.”
There are fans in every room, rather than airconditioning, and the timber window frames act as a better insulator than aluminium. The house also has hydronic heating in the floors and via panels, and there is double glazing throughout.
“It’s not rocket science. There are simple things you can do to keep a house cool or warm,” Mr Porjazoski said.
Timber window frames have insulation benefits.
The internal courtyard was a great way to bring light into the centre of the home.
“Rather than a deep and dark floorplan, an internal courtyard funnels light and air into the belly of the home,” Mr Porjazoski said.
“Because the home’s entry is down the side of the house, it’s what you’re confronted with as soon as you walk in.”
The internal courtyard breaks up the back-to-back room layout of traditional designs. It also allows the indoors and outdoors to be integrated.
“An internal courtyard can increase the cost of construction, but the feeling of space it provides the home is limitless,” Mr Porjazoski said.
The courtyard integrates inside with out.
Rather than opting for a series of downlights dotted throughout the house, the owners chose a handful of attractive pendant lights that work as an architectural feature in their own right.
“We wanted to avoid downlights, which require holes punctured in the ceiling and are therefore less thermally efficient,” Mr Porjazoski said.
He explained the plaster cut-out for a downlight was larger than that for a surface-mounted pendant.
Surface-mounted pendants only needed a small hole to pull the cable through, which meant there was less chance for heat inside the home to escape in winter and for heat to enter the home from the roof space in summer.
“And from an ambience point of view, the pendant lights become a furniture piece rather than pure utility,” he said.
The living room also uses uplighting, which serves to highlight the generous ceilings.
“The uplights are unobtrusive, but they draw attention to the ceilings and help create that sense of spaciousness,” Mr Porjazoski said.
These pendant lights work as design features.
4. Galley-style study
This room was one of the easier parts of the home to design, said Mr Porjazoski, adding galley-style studies worked best when overlooking attractive scenery.
“We positioned a window and desk along the length of the room; it works really well,” he said.
“This study is also connected to the internal courtyard so that makes it special.”
The owner works from home part of the time, so it was important a balance was struck between creating a retreat that was still connected to the rest of the home.
The study also offers views across the courtyard into the living area of the house.
The long desk and window make this work space inspiring.
5. Pitched roof
The pitched roof is one of the star features.
Built in response to the pitched roofs of the surrounding neighbourhood homes, it is asymmetric and features three skylights.
It also hides a second storey that houses the main bedroom, ensuite and another bedroom.
“It looks great but it’s not style driven,” Mr Porjazoski said of the roof.
The pitched roof hides a second storey.
6. Soaring ceilings
When you don’t have a huge footprint to work with, ceiling height becomes important.
At its highest point, the ceiling in the home’s living room is 5.7m high.
“Soaring ceilings are the perfect way to increase the space in a compact floorplan,” Mr Porjazoski said.
“In the Thornbury house, it also helps create light, which bounces off the polished-concrete floors.”
The living room’s high ceilings and large sliding doors help connect the main part of the house to both the rear garden and the internal courtyard.
“Because the living room is a liberated space, it doesn’t feel constrained by a traditional eight or nine-foot ceiling (2.4m-2.7m), and that makes it feel more connected to the outdoors,” Mr Porjazoski said.
Higher up: the soaring ceiling.
7. Simple facade
The owners were clear on what they wanted the outside of the house to look like, according to Mr Porjazoski, and it was the opposite of ostentatious.
“They wanted something simple with a restrained palette,” he said. “They did not want the house to stand out on the street.”
The facade features clear-finished, remilled blackbutt battens fixed over charcoal-stained Shadowclad plywood cladding.
“The garage door itself is clad in cedar, and the clear-finished cedar ties in with the tone of the battens,” Mr Porjazoski said.
The roof is made from Lysaght Custom Orb in the Colorbond colour Wallaby.
A small garden at the front helps soften the look, with recycled sleepers picking up the facade’s timber elements.
The simple facade was designed to be unobtrusive to blend with the area.
8. Polished-concrete floors
Mr Porjazoski is a big fan of the polished-concrete floor as the ideal finish to a modern new build because they’re energy efficient, cost effective and look great.
In the Thornbury house, the builders seeded glass over the top of the standard grey cement.
“About two-thirds of the glass is yellow and one-third is white so the glass reflects the natural light really well,” Mr Porjazoski said.
The polished-concrete floors also act as a heat sink to capture the light streaming through the windows and release it during the colder months.
Working on so many levels: the polished-concrete flooring.