Real Estate

stacks of clever reno ideas in this tiny terrace

Written by The ReReport

The small-house trend might sound like a modern, cutting-edge idea, but if your home is a narrow Victorian terrace, small-space living is just life.

Designer Jackson Fitzroy-Kelly, of JFK Design, understood the need to be particularly clever with this South Melbourne terrace that is just 3.5m wide and on a small 84sq m block.

“The house was close to unliveable and the floorplan consisted of multiple small, separate rooms and as a result felt small and poky,” Mr Fitzroy-Kelly recalled.

The owner bought the cottage five years ago, after the previous owners sold it through Marshall White agent Nicholas Hoo. The brief was to turn the cramped quarters into an elegant yet functional entertainer.

“We spent a huge amount of time looking at how to use space effectively to ensure the house didn’t feel small,” Mr Fitzroy-Kelly said.

His efforts won his company best small lot design in the Building Designers Association of Victoria’s 2018 awards, and also best small dwelling design up to 150sq m in the National Association of Building Designers’ 2018 awards. The builder was Corio Bay Constructions.

Below are some of the project’s best ideas.

Varying floor and ceiling heights

Having a space where entertaining was easy was a big part of the brief.

But creating one large open-plan area in a small space can result in something that actually feels and looks small.

Mr Fitzroy-Kelly’s solution was to define different zones by using varying floor and ceiling heights to create separate spaces.

The front dining area, the original part of the home, has a high ceiling. Then a step down leads into a kitchen where a bulkhead designates where the zone is.

The ceiling then lifts again in the rear, marking the living area.

“These transitions define the spaces so it doesn’t feel like a tunnel,” he explained. “Your eyes move through the space and are drawn up and down.”

Open staircase

A big, solid staircase was never going to work in this space. What was needed was something that was almost transparent but still interesting enough to create a modern feature.

The solution was a custom-built open staircase made of messmate and aged steel that doesn’t block the view from the front door to the rear courtyard but still helps define the space between the kitchen and living area.

“The stairs disappear into the wall,” Mr Fitzroy-Kelly explained.

Skylight and mirrors

Ensuring the home was naturally lit was essential, and this was achieved through strategic use of skylights and mirrors.

“We always try and introduce a skylight into our projects,” Mr Fitzroy-Kelly said. “Things above the eye line can make a difference and make a home feel bigger than it is.”

A long skylight at the top of the staircase guarantees that light will wash down the wall and light up both upstairs and downstairs.

Mirrors add even more of an element of perceived space. Found in both the bathroom and the kitchen, they create depth and help move light through the home.

Island bench

The kitchen is the heart of this home, in part thanks to the island bench. Long and narrow, the bench is home to the cooktop and includes a seating spot.

The ceiling bulkhead adds to the cosiness of the area, which draws people in and makes a great central spot for entertaining.

Made of concrete, the island benchtop works well with other industrial touches, such as the stainless-steel perimeter benchtop and smoked-glass mirror splashback.

Hidden appliances

Custom-made cabinetry hides the fridge, pantry and laundry.

The rangehood over the island bench is not hidden, but looks more like a circular sculptural feature rather than a bulky appliance.

The aim of these design decisions was to make the kitchen look as streamlined and uncluttered as possible.

Mr Fitzroy-Kelly further explained the materials were contemporary but refined.

“We like timber as it warms a space and it has a lot of life to it,” he said.

He added the house featured only concrete, timber and steel. “We didn’t want anything that would create visual clutter.”

Indoor/outdoor living

The owner wanted an indoor/outdoor connection, so the rear doors to the north-facing courtyard had to be special.

The resultant single bi-folding steel doors were custom-made and ensure there is an uninterrupted sightline from the front door to the courtyard. They also create easy access to what, in summer, essentially becomes another room.

Steps made from recycled timber lead from the living area up to the courtyard and form another important connection between the two spaces.

“Stepping up into a courtyard is an unusual approach, but in this instance it’s another way to successfully define the outdoor room and zone the home while maintaining visual connections,” Mr Fitzroy-Kelly said.

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