Gorgeous Georgian

Sarah Gluth, Our House

A solid old Georgian style home has been revamped with innovative ideas, to take its owners into the next century

Most families who renovate usually find themselves doing it progressively, for reasons of cost and convenience.

The Wallace family, who live in this 1930’s Georgian style home in South Yarra, Victoria, is no exception. They called in architect Victoria Hamer to revamp the spacious downstairs areas, requesting that the laundry, kitchen, study area, pool and bathroom work cohesively with the rest of the house, before they started renovating the bed-rooms upstairs. 

Unlike many other grand homes in Melbourne, the focus of this house is not the front, but  rather the rear garden which features a columned poolhouse of Great Gatsby-like proportions. 

Originally constructed in the 70’s fashion of brown bricks, heavy timber beams, a low, flat roof and mission brown windows, the poolhouse is now an airy structure with extensive glass doors and windows and a gable skylight which evokes an alfresco feel. The structure was rendered to match the colour of the house and the area around the pool was paved with limestone eco-pavers. 

With the children now able to swim all year round in the self-contained pool house, the Wallaces asked Victoria to relocate the kitchen from the front of the house to the back so they could enjoy watching the goings-on. But it had to be a specially designed kitchen. In full view of the sunroom – which also opens on to the formal living room and dining room – it had to be totally workable and easy to tidy up. 

Before Victoria designed the kitchen for her clients, she provided them with a detailed questionnaire. They were asked to list their food appliances and miscellaneous accessories, where they preferred them to be located and how often they were used. With this information, Victoria designed a streamline kitchen where everything had it’s place. For example, the food processor can be slid away behind its own rolling door on the corner end of the benchtop.

The architect had discovered through experience that the items in deep-cupboards tend to become inaccessible and/or never used, so the storage facilities were designed as a number of drawers in varying sizes. Pots, pans and plates are stored away in drawers next to the dishwasher. The holder for the plastic wrap and greaseproof paper is located on the wall underneath the overhead cupboards for easy reach and there is also a cookbook holder positioned close by which enables the recipe to be read, and the book to be kept clean – away from all the cooking ingredients. 

The sunroom, which runs off from the kitchen, has been enclosed like a conservatory, and can be enjoyed both in winter and summer. To cool it down in summer, Velux blinds pull down on an angle to cover the glass panels and, according to Victoria, the blinds stop the heat permeating the room.

Rather than an unsightly clothesline strung across the space at the back of the house, a suspended drying rack was built into the laundry roof. Using a pulley system, it can be adjusted up or down very easily and the clothes dry quickly on the rack near the ceiling where the heat rises. 

Victoria has also designed the family’s shoe cleaning box on wheels. Mrs Wallace has requested a rollaway box that enabled the kids to get the polish out, put their shoe on the angled box lid, clean their shoes and put the polish back. The battle to get the family to bring their dirty washing to the laundry was solved with a laundry chute. Sited above the washing machine, dirty clothes are dropped down the chute from the bathroom upstairs, so they are less likely to be left lying in a pile in the kids bedrooms. 

The final challenge Victoria Hamer had to meet was to design a communal study room where Mrs Wallace could do the bookkeeping for her husband’s accounts from his medical practice, and the children their school homework. Accordingly, she designed a space where each child has his or her own study bay, access to a computer and printer, overhead storage and shelves to house reference books. Because the children are frequently in the same room as their mother, help with homework is at hand and they are more likely to have it finished on time, and done properly.