An Old Cottage House’s Renewed Identity: The Peek House

Melbourne is one of the most visited and said to be also one of the most livable cities on earth. The city is also the gateway to a lot of natural and scenic attractions such as the iconic Twelve Apostles at the Great Ocean Road, the lush vineyards at Yarra Valley, the colorful beach houses at Brighton Beach, the numerous parks, and gardens all over the city, and a lot more. Aesthetically, Melbourne’s built environment showcases that dynamic fusion of cultural diversity and architectural heritage. From the Romanesque style of the Queen Victoria Building, to the Neo-Baroque Flinders Street Railway Station, the Modern National Gallery of Victoria, the 21st-century skyscrapers at the business districts, and, to the unique neighborhoods that mostly showcases Victorian style terrace cottage houses.

The terracotta finish paint on the off-the-shelf stairs harmoniously meets the wooden floating landing that sits atop white painted reclaimed bricks from the original house. 

Located in the lively and diverse inner-city suburb of Brunswick in Melbourne, the Peek House is a renovation project of an old Victorian-era terrace cottage house. The design manifests a harmonious synthesis between the retained architectural heritage façade and the new contemporary interiors. Designed by Kuzman Architecture, an additional level on the rear part was also built to meet the client’s requirement of additional spaces. “The brief was to provide a separate kids area, a larger living area that connects to the outdoors and to allow the much-needed natural light in the tight site. The renovation also needs to address the damp subfloor conditions and improved the overall environmental responsiveness of the original house,” says the design team, Sandi Kuzman, and Anna Black.

Originally, the Peek House has two front bedrooms and at the rear side is the living room which was cut off from the garden by lean-to add-ons that housed the service areas such as the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom. The artist owner bought the house for its heritage charm and the separate laneway studio is just the right space for his artworks and it also doubles as a guest area for the visiting extended family. Over time the family of four, the couple with two children, outgrew the house and needed to have more spaces and also address the deteriorating conditions of the house.

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Retaining the façade, it was given a fresh new look by retouching it with white paint. Upon entry, the first bedroom had its original cottage character saved and restored. Going further, the previous second bedroom was now turned into a combined bathroom and laundry area without changing the room size and its original feature such as the brick fireplace. An arched vanity wall was introduced to gently create zones and conceal the shower and the laundry areas. To balance the imperfection of the existing brickwork, the bathroom was finished with a combination of white paints and the accent wall with small mosaic tiles with terracotta colored grout.

Matching the staircase color, the terracotta finished tiles adds that warmth in the kitchen while protecting the walls from oil splashes. Using open shelves instead of closed cabinets not only adds openness in the area but also makes storage more flexible.

The original living room was now converted into an open plan kitchen that consists of prefabricated black painted steel frames and ply shelving that was made on site by the builder. The owners wanted flexibility and uncomplicated living arrangement by having such open shelving and exposed fixtures. Another existing brick fireplace was also retained, and it divided the kitchen from the dining area that is extended to the newly added living room in this Peek house. The new living room is now equipped with full height sliding glass doors that opens directly to the garden. The different textures of the white-painted wall such as the roughness of the existing bricks and the crisp new plaster walls mark the transition of the old and new spaces.

Cutline: The ceiling opening allows more natural light and ventilation to flow within as it passes through the triangular clerestory window.

Addressing the space needed for the kids, the second floor houses the new modest-sized bedrooms and also a small powder room. An off-the-shelf staircase painted with terracotta finish was installed to access the additional floor. The tight site and planning conditions resulted to the sharp asymmetrical roofline creating a soaring peeked internal ceiling. From the outside, the additional floor seems to peek subtly above the existing undulating rooflines of the neighborhood. Also incorporated is the triangular clerestory window bringing natural light into the lower floor and is distributed as it refracts against the white walls.

Completed in 2021, all the materials used in the house was kept to a minimum. Most were basic and exposed, such as the timber floor joists, the black painted structural steel beams, the oak flooring, and the polished concrete floors, bringing out the rawness and authenticity of the house’s character. Also, further insulation is added to meet the new energy local standards. From being an old dark damp house, the Peek House is now full of brightness, color, and warmth, providing the family a conducive place to create more memories together.

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Article Credits: 

Drawings courtesy of Kuzman Architecture and images courtesy of Tatjana Plitt ©