MELBOURNE – You could walk from one end of Edwards Moore’s recently completed renovation to another without encountering a single door. During this walk you would encounter three headless (ceramic) dogs, two wooden dinosaurs and the replica of a skull. The passageway where this walk would take place is along the southern edge of the Doll’s House and it maintains spatial and visual connections between all living areas.

The alternative circulation route – through two courtyards – adds a layer of complexity to the residence. Despite being small and narrow – the Doll’s House measures only four by 23 metres – it looks spacious and seems to promise even more space on the other side of each wall.

Courtyard gardens play a central role in creating this illusion of space.

Two courtyards were added to the original house plan. They are on the northern edge of the site and designed to daylight and ventilate the interior, act as additional circulation zones and open the house to the garden. They achieve all of this while creating what the architects at Edwards Moore describe as ‘a sense of the ethereal, an otherworldly environment hidden amongst the urban grain’.

Courtyards also complicate the perceived spatial arrangement of the Doll’s House. Glass doors allow constant views to and from the courtyards, making their open spaces appear as part of the interior. Views to other rooms – which are all similar in terms of materiality and colour – make all the spaces seem connected, which in turn makes them look and feel bigger than they are. This trick on the eye facilitates the Doll’s House constant promise of more space to come.

Apart from achieving this spatial illusion, the Doll’s House is also a display space for the resident’s eclectic assortment of objects. A muted colour palette of whites, greys and light woods balances the colourful collection, similarly to how the walls in an exhibition space recede into the background to highlight artworks on display.

Although the Doll’s House aims to be ‘uncomplicated’, it harbours immense detail in its materials. A rustic yet industrial, functional yet whimsical atmosphere is created through the mix of high and low objects and materials. Architects at Edwards Moore chose to work with these ‘raw and untreated finishes’ to create ‘a grit that compliments the owner’s desire for an uncomplicated living arrangement’. Unexpected juxtapositions – a ladder in the living room, a gold-panel backsplash behind the kitchen sink, a door that opens from the bedroom onto the street – all add to the Doll’s House mood of airy quirkiness.

Photos courtesy of Fraser Marsden