In Focus

Behind The Design: A delicate control of visual thresholds

Teleisha Thomas

Teleisha Thomas

June 2023

Discover a harmonious blend of Victorian elegance and contemporary innovation with this beautiful home nestled in the heart of South Yarra. 

We sat down with the current owners, Ruth and Cormac, to discuss the secrets behind the thoughtful build, lovingly designed to grow with their family and enjoyed throughout all seasons.

Ruth, together with her husband Cormac, desired a home that could meet their family’s growing needs and enjoy Australian indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Their pursuit of a larger home aligned perfectly with the arrival of 25 Fawkner Street, and commissioned architects, Workshop Architects, to create the family home of their dreams.

The young family recently decided to relocate to Ireland to connect with their relatives but they couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the build and the time they spent and memories they made at Fawkner Street.

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25 Fawkner Street, South Yarra is currently on the market with Nathan Waterson from Jellis Craig Stonnington.View Property Here. Contact Nathan for more details. M 0439 905 188

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The modern extension was designed by Workshop Architects. What was the brief for this project and what aspects of the build were most important to you?

We worked with Workshop Architecture on our previous house, so we established a great working relationship with James and Peter, whereby we all understood and trusted one another. We asked them to design something with wow-factor, something striking and special – but also something that would work for us in a practical way as a family. They delivered both in spades and the renovation was shortlisted for the Houses Awards in 2018.

For simplicity, we wanted to work within the existing envelope of space from the 1980s extension. Peter had an idea based on Japanese architecture, which meant that you had to move around a space to see the different elements of it. As they said;

Circulation as the primary idea, it seeks to entice the occupant from one space to the next. Axial views are deliberately denied, inviting the viewer to discover that which lies beyond.

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So, when you walk down the central hallway, you don’t see the garden immediately, you must move further to open the vistas. The opacity of the double-height windows creates a completely different feel when compared to ‘glass box’ renovations. Whilst our space is square-ish, the design creates a lot more visual interest and unique perspectives.

Tell us about the use of wooden panelling throughout the home and its significant impact on the overall aesthetic and atmosphere. Why did you choose that feature?

The first house we renovated in Nicholson Street contained light-coloured wood panelling with a darker wood contrast. That suited that house which was south facing with smaller rooms. When we came to Fawkner Street - with all the light and space that it had - I suggested to James that we reverse it. Melbourne experiences dark winter days and bright sunny summer days. The panelling creates warmth for the winter and a counterpoint for the light in the summer. The carpenters were masterful, and the staircase in particular is a special feature of the house.

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Were there any unexpected discoveries or hidden gems that were revealed during the renovation process?

The house has a cellar! If wine is not your drop, the space is handy for storage and keeps everything very dry. We also co-opted it to hide away all our AV equipment, which is connected to the cabling that was installed throughout the whole house. This meant that we could use the storage in the house in a more effective manner. Also, under the stairs is a lovely big space which the kids made into a cubby at times, so we put a light fixture in there.

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Were there any particular design considerations or materials used to bridge the transition between the Victorian house and the modern extension?

Yes! The old extension had double doors that lead through to the rear of the house. They were not original and were quite flimsy. Right at the very end of the renovation, James came up with the idea of the rolled steel archway in the hall. It was tricky to install, but I was delighted with how it came out and how it marks the threshold between the old and the new space. It was a brilliant idea, the cherry on top. Over the course of the two renovations, I learned that the thresholds really matter. Our architects worked hard to bridge those thresholds and make them appear seamless.

What are three words you would use to describe the property?




Can you discuss the overall impact the renovation has had on your daily life and the functionality of the home?

For the time we lived there it gave us a beautiful space to live and be in as a family. I am jealous of the new buyers of 25 Fawkner Street; they are lucky indeed.

The pool was a great space to play in with the kids, we spent hours in there. We also threw parties and opened up the whole house. On the AV front, we installed a speaker system that meant we could play music anywhere - including the pool speakers.

Another useful aspect is the curtain we put around the mezzanine playroom. This makes it possible to be used by guests as a bedroom or for a sleepover with a gang of kids.

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