Project Name: St. Kilda House
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Architects: Jost Architects
Design Team: Patrick Jost
Duration: Five months
Clients: Agata Millington, with husband Chris and their three-year-old son, Rupert
Architecture speaks of the quality of timelessness infused in creation. Every design challenge has its own print, distinct by itself, and unique to all others. A poignant example of architecture that addressed the residence of Agata Millington, designed by Jost Architects, speaks of an ideal that comprises of adapting qualitatively a worn-down cottage, dated from 1841, into a home for a family, converting the dilapidated structure into a contemporary unit, that catered to the requirements and wishes of the family.
While imagining a complete turnover of their home, Agata and Chris desired a home which would have freely flowing spaces, enhanced by a quality of openness, while each space held onto its own identity and within themselves, possess a distinctive spatial value. The intent behind converting an old cottage was intrinsic to their wishes, and while opting for modern aesthetics for the house, inclusive of fittings and finishes regarding wallpapers, tiles and timber, they insisted that the original essence of the cottage be preserved. Aside from these, they held to the notion that while it be designed with their wishes in mind, the home would be a family home, which would appeal to all, for potential sale opportunities, as well.
With their ideal wish in place, the couple approached Patrick Jost, the architect, in order to conceptualise the schematic design. His plans were based on the existing design of the cottage. However, they also included an extension in the rear side, along with modifications in the floor plan and the finishes of the external façade. Meanwhile, as the architect worked on the plans and their required approval, the couple began the process of peeling back all the layers accumulated on the house. This included removal of the original horsehair plaster as well as rusted pressed metal, and exposed cathedral ceilings as well as four front doors. Beneath these layers, they also discovered the original wallpaper, and Agata was inspired by these designs, and the house’s colour palette was developed along its lines.
Once the final plans were on paper, details for them were added to the design, for instance, regarding the structure, and the insulation measures required, and the layouts for the bathroom and the kitchen. Post these additions, the couple contemplated the finishes which would paint the complete picture for their home. Agata herself took up the onus of designing the interiors. Agata is a self-proclaimed fan of ‘negative space’ and the idea it represents, adding to a unique spatial quality. Therefore, she introduced walls which were stark in nature and a pristine white in colour, and added warmth in an entire ensemble by the means of recycled panelling in timber, artworks by the artist Jonathan Guthmann and alike, and their personal collection of vintage furniture.
While they respected the heritage that the cottage presented, the cottage had succumbed to the effect of decay over the years. Therefore, there did not remain much of the original material they could salvage. However, they maintained that the cottage holds an essence, which needs to be maintained, if not the original fabric. During the scraping of the former layers on the house, they found exterior timber boards, a part of the original construction. During the renovation, these were repurposed, and served as a link and representation of the history that the house possessed. It was the vertical lines of these boards which served as an inspiration and was represented on the various elements of the house, like the panelling, as well as the tiling. An interesting fact remains that when the house was uncovered, there were found markings on the floor, which indicate that there were many small rooms, giving rise to speculations which suggest the house may have been a brothel once. Agata laughed at these, pleased that her house had probably once had an air of naughtiness.
With the design in place, it was Chris himself, a building and development consultant with his own business, Fairside, who managed the renovation project, with Bacchus Constructions. He oversaw the progress, beginning with the pouring of the slab for the rear extension, followed by the restumping of the subfloor in timber, underneath the existing house. The progress faced a hitch with regard to steel support beams, because there were some power lines nearby, and that required that the beams be lifted by hand. Another altercation was when the recycled timber ordered for cladding was lost as the very timber mill had burnt down and it was only after a harried search that another mill started making the timber, and the same had to be done quickly.
The timber for the façade, and the discovery of wide sugar pine boards in most of the external walls is a winning feature of the renovation. They themselves worked hard to cut, patch and sand and prepare the boards in order to use them for the front façade making it an extremely appealing and eye catching appearance. The flooring of the house post renovation would have been polished concrete, as that would be the first choice of the couple, but the presence of their three year old son induced a choice of the softer white cork flooring, in the living areas. In the wet rooms, they opted for orange rubber flowing, produced locally, eco-friendly and with a great look and feel to it.
The project of turning over a dilapidated cottage into a home for a family, with modern day requirements and based entirely on the wishes of the clients took a grand total of just five months, and was also undertaken below the assigned budget. Its openness with regard to spatiality is a coveted quality, and truly reflects the spirit of the familial home. Currently, the couple is living in the house, and enjoying the sweet fruit of their labour, comfortable in their home and praised by guests. comfortable in their home and praised by guests.
-Devashree Vyas, Volume Zero.