Kew Pool House

This 1930s Jazz Moderne home in Studley Park, Kew, initially passed through the hands of two architectural practices, one being a Sydney-based firm. Each practice came with its own vision, rather than responding to the clients or the original house. ‘The Sydney scheme comprised a series of curved walls that felt more befitting of the Sydney Harbour than Studley Park,” says architect Rebecca Naughtin, pointing out views over the adjacent golf course and glimpses of Melbourne’s skyline. “In some ways the house reminded me of a miniature version of Burnham Beeches (a 1930s art deco mansion in the Dandenongs),” she adds.


The 1930s double-storey brick home in Kew is considerably more modest in both scale and decoration than Burnham Beeches. However, it does come with some of the embellishments from this period: a curved stairwell, curvaceous built-in fireplaces, solid exterior and interior brick walls, together with deep cornices. There’s also symmetry in the location of windows and doors. The house had been previously renovated a few times before Naughtin was commissioned to remove some of the previous work and also add a new contemporary kitchen and living area to the rear.


The clients, a couple with four adult children, together with grandchildren, wanted a home where the large family could visit or stay. Rather than create something that it wasn’t, Naughtin and her team looked at both the brief and, as importantly, the context: a triangular-shaped site with some established native trees. Landscape designer Gary Winter was drawn in on this project, together with horticultural specialist Stephanie Day (the property comes with a vegetation overlay).


One of the first tasks was to remove some of the enclosed balconies and verandahs to allow the house to return to its original form. Other parts of the home were opened up, as well as renovating bathrooms for the five-bedroom home (a sixth bedroom with its own ensuite at ground level doubles as a study/office).


Naughtin added a large open plan kitchen and living area to the rear of the home, orientated to the west and overlooking the new swimming pool. Given the orientation, this addition came with deep eaves lined with spotted gum. “Originally there was a kidney shaped swimming pool, but it was poorly located (on the triangular-shaped site) and didn’t adhere to current standards.”


The kitchen itself draws its design cues from the 1930s, a time when graphic lines ruled the day. The central island bench, for example, features back marble on two sides, and this is also featured on the splashback which is framed by white MDF joinery inserted with two symmetrical glass-fronted cupboards (picking up on the symmetry in the original home). However, mindful of contemporary living and for a couple who enjoy entertaining, there’s also a large butler’s kitchen concealed to one side and a separate dining area for more formal occasions. “We were conscious of opening up the house, particularly at the rear, but we also wanted to keep the scale and detailing sympathetic to the original 1930s home,” says Naughtin, pointing out the wide bulkhead in the extension. “It creates that sense of solidity we inherited.” And should the owners want to create more intimate zones, there are double doors separating the old and new.


The Kew Pool House found its way into the most appropriate hands, even if this took time. “This house was conceived as the ‘nest egg’. It was seen as an investment for the long term, with an extended family that will continually change and evolve,” adds Naughtin.

Country: Wurundjeri

Photography: Ben Hosking

Text: Stephen Crafti