Light pervades the moody spaces in Austin Maynard Architects' house of contrasts

Chalres House by Austin Maynard Architects. Photos Peter Bennetts

MELBOURNE – A luscious and dynamic garden brings Charles House to life. Located in an inner suburb 6-km east of Australia’s second-most populated city, local firm Austin Maynard Architects completed the house itself a little over a year ago. It is only now that the landscaping is finalised that this project really comes into its own and the architect’s vision to encourage open connection between indoor and outdoor life can be clearly appreciated. Founding partner Andrew Maynard described the feeling of the house as ‘ancient and monolithic within a full and robust garden’ and this gives way to a project of atmospheric and visual contrasts.

Multigenerational living is becoming increasingly normal – whether out of choice or necessity – and with a family of five (plus grandparents) to accommodate, Charles House was destined from the start to be a project of great magnitude. To keep from dominating the other homes in the suburban neighbourhood, the architectural mass is split into smaller volumes, each clad in an individual pattern of slate tiles – a design feature usually limited to the roof and only enjoyed by the birds flying overhead. The five sections of the house differ in height, materiality and internal atmosphere to create a living space that is never predictable.

Where the cladding choice proved to be too heavy, the slate was substituted for Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) – a premium Australian timber with high durability and a natural reddish tint. The hardwood subsequently became an actively-used material choice throughout the interior as an alternative to the plan white walls.

‘Contrast is important to Charles House in numerous ways,’ says Maynard. Wild, jungle-esque plants and succulent greenery wrap around the exterior of the property but the garden – designed by Bush Projects – is visually connected to the interior through the many openings that permeate the moody spaces. Keeping visual channels running through the property is an important element of the design. ‘Much like the distinction between the dark slate shingles and the greenery, the interior deliberately and dramatically reveals the garden. The house is orientated towards the sun, so intense splashes of light break through the dark façade at specific moments.’

Plan – Level 0

Plan – Level 1

Long Section

Cross Section

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