Turn House

This modest single-fronted Victorian terrace is a familiar typology in North Fitzroy. A wrought iron front fence and typical scrollwork from this period can be found in many neighbouring homes. However, take a turn down the adjacent bluestone lane and one discovers a sculptural contemporary black brick wall at the rear. “The title is curved at this point, quite an anomaly in a subdivision,” says architect Rebecca Naughtin, who named this renovation ‘Turn House’ as a result. “Following this curve also helped to maximise the property’s footprint,” she adds.

The owners of this terrace had interviewed a number of architects, including some who suggested adding a first floor. “I could feel that an additional level wasn’t what they were looking for, being two guys who didn’t want to create rooms that would sit empty and unused.” While additional bedrooms and bathrooms were not called for, the couple enjoys cooking and entertaining at home. Hence, the brief for the kitchen alone was both extensive and highly detailed. One owner, for example is keen on sous-vide cooking, while the other enjoys making pastry. So, on one side of the galley-style kitchen is stainless steel, while on the other is a long timber bench inset with marble (perfect for keeping pastry cool). There’s even a separate station for the coffee machine, fully plumbed. “I was handed a spread sheet with all the kitchen utensils that needed to be accommodated, including every fork!”

As with the curved brick wall enclosing the northern courtyard, the kitchen wall is also brick, but white to reflect the light. The edge of the kitchen, delineated by almost five-metre-high steel and glass doors and windows, is also partially curved to bring in light and also to purge hot air during the warmer months (via automated highlight celestial windows). And on warmer days, the canteen-style steel windows allow meals to be served on the terrace, lined with a timber deck that has built-in seating.

Unlike some renovations, where the rooms are clearly delineated, in the Turn House, there’s a ‘blurring’ of spaces. The stainless-steel fridge has ‘one foot’ in the kitchen, but also makes its presence felt in the lounge. “My clients simply wanted a clear delineation between the working kitchen zone and the social spaces.”

Although Naughtin’s design literally follows a curve, it’s both highly functional and thoughtfully detailed. The European timber shelves in the living area are supported with brass rods and the joinery in the kitchen extends to the living area, bespoke and considered to accommodate every conceivable household item. Polished concrete floors, with under-floor hydronic heating also makes this home comfortable to be in during the colder months. “I’m the daughter of a dairy farmer. Things should look great, but it’s paramount that everything is functional, with a reason for being.”

This renovation wasn’t about resale or maximising one’s footprint. From the moment one enters, it’s clearly apparent that each decision stemmed from the owners’ desire to create a home for themselves, for the long term. There’s the requisite number of bedrooms and a large bathroom that contains a European-style laundry. This also doubles as the guest powder room. A separate dining area was also included. And unlike many Victorian homes that turn their back on the light, this home is now a suntrap in the areas of the house that count most, particularly for these clients.

Photography: Daniel Fuge

Text: Stephen Crafti