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Melbourne Terrace House by Breathe Architecture

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Breathe Architecture leverages the beauty of exposed brickwork and the canny use of space to add valuable amenity to a typical Port Melbourne terrace house.

Given its heritage status, the front façade of the house has been left in situ, while a new freestanding brick studio (housing a guest room, painting studio, workshop and laundry), addresses a quiet street to the rear of the property. It’s the extension that provides all the clues as to the strategic thinking and visual language employed by the architects. Informed by the street’s interface of roller doors and outbuildings, the addition is a utilitarian structure, rendered in stack bond brickwork, which gives the house an undeniably contemporary aesthetic.

“We wanted to create a robust, informal structure that would tie in with this context while having an architectural language that would relate to the extension of the main house,” says Madeline. The team selected recycled red bricks for its sustainable, utilitarian nature to underscore this intent, with the studio parapet tying in with the parapet of the existing neighbouring structure.

The configuration and dynamics of the internal (and external) flow support the clients’ hospitable nature and love for casual entertaining. The kitchen features an oversized, functional island with a higher servery ledge, where family and guests gather while cooking or preparation is underway. Given their love of gardening, the clients landscaped the two courtyards themselves, one of which is shared by the main house and studio, providing a valuable external amenity to both.

Materially, the manipulation of brick used both internally and externally, blurs the boundaries between inside and out. Inside, the effect is more intentional. Whilst some of the existing brick walls have been painted white, to reflect light, all the new brickwork has been left unpainted. The double brick walls also reduce the need for applied finishes. Australian Blackbutt timber veneer joinery and recycled Tasmanian Oak flooring bring additional warmth into the palette.

Overall, this is a terrace house that underpins Breathe’s philosophy of ‘build less, give more’. “We also consider it our professional responsibility to help clients understand that they often need less than they may originally think – smaller footprints, less applied finishes, more robust materials and more efficient construction. These are the conversations we are constantly having with our clients through the design process.”  Photos by Tom Ross;