A New Suburban Home That Honours Past + Present

A New Suburban Home That Honours Past + Present


by Amelia Barnes

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Hill House by Inbetween Architecture is often mistaken as a renovation of a long-established home, despite being built in 2021.

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Inbetween also looked at the existing character of Wheelers Hill for inspiration, which features many large brick homes developed in the 1970s and 80s.

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Kitchen details.

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Joyful hues of orange, green, and yellow are quietly introduced through coloured glass in the kitchen windows.

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The interiors feature bagged brick that gives the house a sense of human scale, tactility, and “handmade-ness.”

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No two windows in the home are the same.

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The two-storey home captures treetop views.

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Views across the canopy of Jells Park nearby and to the Dandenong Ranges beyond are a feature of the site.

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Targeted bold colour creates moments of surprise and delight, inspired by the colours of festival and celebration.

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A walk-in shower and freestanding bath.

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The completed house has proven to be a place for respite and joy for the clients, who look forward to coming home every day.

The owners of this Wheelers Hill home didn’t want to build a new house, but their brief for a functional four-bedroom house (with a focus around shared living and having spaces for each family member to pursue their individual interests) couldn’t be met through renovation alone.

‘The clients were not passionate about building a new house. When we first met, it was to renovate their existing home, but it became clear that the constraints of their site were not going to work with their brief,’ explains Steph Richardson, associate director of Inbetween Architecture.

‘We parted ways and were surprised to be contacted a few months later to review a potential new home site. The rest is history!’

While the project was now a new-build, the clients were still interested in creating the feel of an established home.

‘A challenge we faced was that the client had never really anticipated building a new home. In fact, most of what they were drawn to by way of inspiration and aspiration were well-established, history-laden, traditional evocations of  “home”. For example, a humble English stone-clad cottage with its rustic farmhouse kitchen and heavy oak beams — not exactly where we would usually start for a contemporary suburban family home,’ says Steph.

‘It was our challenge to unpack these associations and understand what they symbolised and how these base needs could be reimagined and represented in their new home.’

This project was Inbetween Architecture’s first new-build, large-scale single dwelling, so they drew on their renovation expertise to design a new house with inherent character.

‘While we didn’t have remnants of an existing home to draw inspiration from, there were strong feelings about what “home” should be. We found that exploring these ideas was just as fruitful as examining the history and aspirations of a renovation/extension project, and the results, we feel, show that a new build can be just as layered, rich and personality filled,’ Steph says.

‘Broadly, we identified a desire for solidity and permanence, which found its way in through the solidity of the form and through materiality in the bagged brick cladding.’

Inbetween also looked to the existing character of Wheelers Hill, which features many large brick homes developed in the 1970s and 80s.

‘Large, sloped roofs were popular at the time and sit well within the hilly terrain,’ Steph says. The shape of Hill House, particularly its asymmetrical roof form, is a play on this familiar style.

Another source of inspiration was the client’s Indian heritage and background as first generation immigrants. Steph explains, ‘The exercise of building a new home was a significant symbol of their ‘putting down roots’ in their adopted but much-loved country.

‘While it was a celebration of the new life they had made for themselves and their family here, it was important that it honoured and respected their heritage.

‘This was not interpreted literally but through harnessing associations of their formative years in India and blending these elements into a cohesive outcome.’

A base palette of white and timber features throughout the home. ‘We used timber abundantly, in rich tones, to allude to the traditional Indian domestic vernacular typified by white rendered surfaces with timber and terracotta features,’ Steph says.

No two windows in the home are the same, adding to the overall eclectic feel.  ‘It also gives a sense of human scale, tactility and “handmade-ness” to the home,’ says Steph.

Joyful hues of orange, green, red, and yellow are quietly introduced through coloured glass in the stairway and kitchen windows, and carpet to the bedrooms.

The floor plan responds to the site, which features a neighbouring house to the left, and open parkland to the north. Naturally, the home embraces this outlook through northern windows and an outdoor deck behind the garage.

The completed house has proven to be a place for respite and joy for the clients who look forward to coming home every day.

They say, ‘The idea of home is complex for first generation migrants who try very hard to find comfort and familiarity in their adopted country.

‘For us, building our new house with [architects] John [Liu] and Steph was a journey of discovering and consolidating our identity as migrants and individuals who have come to love this country as much as our country of birth, India.

‘The house integrates our past and present harmoniously… Their clever and simple design has helped us truly express and celebrate our blended cultural identity.’

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