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A New Chapter For An Eclectic 100-Year-Old Cottage

Architecture

Some renovations projects call for an extensive overhaul of an existing space, others just a little finessing. The latter was the case for Engawa House in Ivanhoe, Victoria, which required only necessary works to update its energy efficiency and spatial planning. 

Only 15 square metres is a true addition to the house – the remainder simply a reconfiguring of the existing space, designed by Inbetween Architecture as a natural reaction to the client’s curious collection of souvenirs.

As the director of Inbetween Architecture John Liu explains, the house aims to be unapologetic in the pleasant messiness of living with ‘things.’

6th December, 2021

An ‘engawa’ is a continuous verandah edge that allows the internal volume to share its spatial quality with the private yard beyond. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Only necessary updates were specified in the brief to Inbetween Architecture: an updated kitchen, laundry, and bathroom (all added in an ‘80s renovation), and improved energy efficiency. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Owners, Phil and Katrina, loved their old house but knew they wanted greater integration with the garden. They described the brief as an addition that was ‘not different, just more.’ Photo – Peter Bennetts.

‘We have lived here for 12 years or so. Our aim was to find a house that took up no more space or resources than we needed,’ Phil says. ‘It has been a home to many families for more than a hundred years, and it shows. It has always been a place of comfort and love.’ Photo – Peter Bennetts.

The primary goal of the interiors was to provide a simple, open backdrop for Phil and Katrina’s eclectic interests, personality, and art to be on full display. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Inbetween Architecture implemented a general strategy of nooks rather than rooms, borrowing space from one another to blur boundaries. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

All their treasures, art and collections are on show! Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Aesthetically there are references to Japanese homes, such as the wooden accents throughout and cedar bath. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Light streams into the house, while a network of hallways connect the rooms and create great flow. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

The interiors are coated with Dulux Enviro2 paint. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Phil’s art studio! Photo – Peter Bennetts.

The house retains its character and lived-in feel, despite being updated. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

The Ivanhoe locale provides a lushness to the surrounds. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Phil at work. Photo – Peter Bennetts.

The house is a typical suburban presence from the exterior! Photo – Peter Bennetts.

Amelia Barnes
Monday 6th December 2021

‘It has been a home to many families for more than a hundred years, and it shows. It has always been a place of comfort and love.’ 

If you asked a child to draw a house, most would draw a box with a triangle-shaped roof, door, two windows, and a chimney. This is how artist Phil and Katrina see their beloved Ivanhoe home –an important feature they didn’t want changed.

The couple explain, ‘When older houses are extended, the “join” often shows and the overall primary shape of the house loses integrity…[Our home] already opened onto the garden, but we wanted to improve the flow between garden and house. Not different, just more.’

Only necessary updates were specified in the brief to Inbetween Architecture: an updated kitchen, laundry, and bathroom (all added in an ‘80s renovation), and improved energy efficiency. 

‘We always cherished the house, but sometimes it could be a difficult child. It is one thing to feel close to the garden, and another thing to feel gusts of wind from outside coming through the bathroom ceiling in winter!’ say Phil and Katrina. 

A 6.5 metre rear covenant setback greatly limited the scope of any extension or addition, forcing Inbetween Architecture to look mostly inward to make changes. In any case, Phil and Katrina always appreciated the existing house and garden’s size, therefore welcoming the approach. ‘We have lived here for 12 years or so. Our aim was to find a house that took up no more space or resources than we needed,’ Phil says. ‘It has been a home to many families for more than a hundred years, and it shows. It has always been a place of comfort and love.’ 

‘We also wanted the house to reflect our approach to life: to prefer the simple, functional and efficient at a time when there seems to be a sort of arms race to build bigger houses and buy bigger, louder cars.’

Only 15 square metres was added to the house, most of which encompasses the ‘engawa’ – a continuous verandah edge that allows the internal volume to share its spatial quality with the private yard beyond. 

The primary goal of the interiors was to provide a simple, open backdrop for Phil and Katrina’s eclectic interests, personality, and art to be on full display. A general strategy of nooks rather than rooms ensued, borrowing space from one another to blur boundaries. 

Aesthetically there are references to Japanese homes (‘They are typically compact, calm, and unfussy, and accentuate the natural beauty of wood,’ Phil says), although in keeping with Phil and Katrina’s lifestyle. ‘We know our limits, and a shoji screen would not last till morning tea in our house. So, we asked John to try and incorporate a little Japanese design, without it being an attempt to replicate a traditional Japanese house. John achieved this through the thoughtful inclusion of things like the overhanging wooden eaves and engawa-style rear deck,’ says Phil. 

A Japanese wooden bath made of cedar provides a further relaxing touch. ‘This was made by a local craftsman, and is a simple thing of beauty. When you have a soak, you come out smelling like a pencil, and the cedar scent finds its way through the house,’ says Phil.

In adopting a ‘chapter adding’ philosophy, Inbetween Architecture have enhanced the home and its character, only adding to its already rich history. 

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