Victoria is geographically the smallest state in Australia; it is also the most densely populated and this is creating a shift in its architectural language. Despite being known for its nineteenth-century heritage, Melbourne – the state’s capital – is becoming more contemporary, with a host of landmark buildings located mostly around the city’s outskirts. Following suit, local firm Kavellaris Urban Design (KUD) has nestled a modern home between two ‘comparatively imposing white Edwardian houses’ in the suburb of Ivanhoe, a mere 10-km north-east of Melbourne’s centre.

Makris House wrestles with conflict not only in the context of the neighbourhood but also within its own walls. The architect describes the project as ‘a conversation of dualities: of heaviness and lightness; public and private; light and darkness.’ Between the warmth of the rich, dark timber interior and the coolness of the off-white masonry, the tension of materials is a balancing act of contrasts.

On the west elevation, the double-height entrance is perceived as a dark void. Behind it, a curved corridor creates an obvious contrast to the project’s otherwise blockish nature, snaking through the interior despite the risk of being disrupted by sharp corners. The stack-bond brickwork – which gives the exterior masonry its tiled appearance – wraps around the façade and follows through into the interior to create a uniformed aesthetic throughout. In an unusual twist, the main living space is brought to life where the short edge of the private swimming pool forms the interior wall.