This dark-coloured yet warm, cosy and stylish interior is the design of Blair Smith Architecture. With the Brunswick Lean To project, they created a clever addition to an old cottage, enriching the residents' lives with a limited architectural intervention.
Melbourne-based architecture and design studio Blair Smith Architecture designs their projects based on the aspirations of the client. They believe this and a thoughtful and unbiased process are key elements of architecture. ‘Our focus is on creating places that are both poetic and pragmatic in a way that enriches every lived experience.’ Brunswick Lean To is one of their beautiful projects that embodies their approach and style. It is an addition to a cottage – which is heritage listed –in Brunswick located in their home town. The design is the result of an ongoing dialogue with clients. ‘When friendships are formed through an architectural commission, we see the building through a different lens than others...this physical thing becomes more than the grain in the wood panelling or a shadow moving across the floor, it is imbued with the spirit of your collective aspirations,’ says founder Blair Smith. This is exactly what happened with the Brunswick Lean To project.
“Our focus is on creating places that are both poetic and pragmatic in a way that enriches every lived experience"
The main objective was to enrich the clients' way of life through modest architectural intervention. For example, the addition is limited to 51 square metres and was positioned to preserve an edible garden and detached studio. ‘As the Victorian buildings in the street have a cohesive quality, it was important that the addition would adapt to the scale of the cottage so that it would remain the prominent form in the streetscape. The new building is therefore set below the cottage's roofline and is reduced in height towards the rear,’ says the studio. The design was inspired by the dilapidated structure it replaces. The architects took on the challenge of distilling the simplicity and poetry inherent in these otherwise problematic structures often added to such old buildings in Melbourne. They also opted for a better view and more convenient layout. Certain rooms, such as the bathroom, require more privacy. These are separated, for example, by sliding doors with fluting or wooden screens. When these are open, the adjacent spaces can flow into each other, and when they are closed, there is enough privacy. Throughout the addition, wooden screens were used extensively, each with different functions. ‘They block heat and glare and provide more privacy for the surrounding buildings. Each screen has an integrated fly screen and can be locked over a corresponding doorway, allowing residents to leave the house on warm evenings while it is secured and passively cooled.’ With the refurbishment and new interior, Blair Smith brought a contemporary touch to the old typology. The living/dining area was given a darker colour, but is still cosy and warm thanks to the right details and furniture. The kitchen, like the bathroom, was given a slightly lighter look with white tiles, breaking up and balancing the palette. ‘Both the client and we had a preference for a low lighting level and the ribbed ceiling was therefore completely stripped of light fittings. In the evening, the interior has something 'primeval', as if one were in some dimly lit cave,’ they say. Images courtesy of Blair Smith Architecture
Photography by Tom Ross