Where Architects Live | Dominic Pandolfini

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    Pandolfini Architects director Dominic Pandolfini takes us on a tour of his South Melbourne terrace, where he lives with his wife, their three children and beloved Groodle.

    Melbourne-based architecture practice Pandolfini Architects have applied their bold and robust design sensibility to a scope of residential projects – small city homes, beach houses and heritage conversions – since their inception in 2012. Founder and director Dominic Pandolfini’s recently-completed South Melbourne house follows his previous pad in Port Melbourne, the second home the Melbourne architect has designed for himself and his family.

    Living in the home for a few years before any intervention, rotting timber floors and general wear and tear necessitated the extensive redesign when Dominics’ first child began walking. Dominic and the Pandolfini Architects team used the opportunity to experiment throughout the design process, creating an expressive yet functional family home with an all-encompassing sense of permanence. 

    Dominic Pandolfini’s house belongs to a tree-lined street of overlapping, heritage-listed Victorian terraces in South Melbourne. Working within the compact parameters of a 180m2 site with a heritage overlay, Dominic explains he had to think differently about space. “Limited access to natural light required the use of skylights and double-height spaces to make the most of the windows we could have,” Dominic says. To work around the height covenant of the site, Dominic sunk the ground floor of the new rear addition, signifying a transition from the old to the new through a drop-down step.

    The house is arranged across two levels, although you couldn’t tell from the brick and wrought-iron facade. Two kids bedrooms and a bathroom are within the front of the original home, while an open plan living, kitchen and dining area are located in the new addition overlooking the rear courtyard. A private retreat for Dominic and his wife lies upstairs, with a study and a master bedroom complete with a walk-in robe and ensuite. Punctuated by skylights and accessed through a concealed joinery door, Dominic says the sky blue-tiled ensuite is the most peaceful space in the house – and the furthest away from the kids.

    “A pared-back palette with natural and hard-wearing materials is always calming; you want to feel comfortable in a space, not like you’re about to break something.”

     

    – Pandolfini Architects director Dominic Pandolfini

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    The living space features a built-in terrazzo plinth, showcasing works on paper by Joseph Griffiths and the Vitra Akari 24N lamp. Artwork by David Palliser.

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    Dominic lowered the ground floor of the new rear addition, signifying a transition from the old to the new via a drop-down timber step.

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    A circular skylight injects light into the core of the home.

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    Dominic played with the concept of tension throughout the home, including in the stairwell. Here, the heavy mass of the raw concrete staircase contrasts the delicate steel handrail.

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    “The main bathroom is accessed directly off the lounge room, which is never ideal, but we concealed the door within a timber wall which reduces visual clutter and creates a sense of surprise,” Dominic says.

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     The light-filled study is contained in the void of the new double-height addition, with the large oval window dousing the space in light.

    The kitchen is tucked at the rear of the home, illuminated by industrial black track lighting. Deep navy blue cabinetry is offset by a chunky terrazzo island bench, marble benchtop and sleek integrated appliances, with a window seat opening up onto a large herb garden – Dominic’s favourite spot to sit and have a coffee in the morning.

    Being a small terrace, Dominic says there wasn’t much room for vigorous rearranging – instead, he focused on materials and detailing to delineate the spaces and create a sense of flow. For example, timber flooring in the original home signifies the front bedrooms. In contrast, concrete flooring forms the base of the main living and dining area, hand seeded by the Pandolfini team and Dominic’s children. “We threw white stones into the floor as it was being poured, and our kids were very excited to be involved, although the concreters weren’t overly impressed with us walking through the fresh concrete,” Dominic laughs. 

    Subtle stepped detail in the concrete ceiling distinguishes the kitchen and dining space from the living room at the back of the home. This concrete interior is heavily contrasted with vibrant, eclectic artwork, indoor plants, pale oak furniture and an oversized green rug.

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    Dominic says the sky blue-tiled ensuite is the most peaceful space in the house, punctuated by skylights and accessed through a concealed joinery door.

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    Dominic and his wife were heavily inspired by the concrete-heavy nature of modern Italian residential design, opting for concrete as the primary material for not only its sense of permanence and solidity but durability for three young children. The Pandolfini Architects team were also working on their first large-scale project at the time – an office building composed of grand concrete forms. “This commercial project also informed the design of the house, as the vast amounts of concrete isn’t typically something we would have considered for a small house,” Dominic explains.

    The Melbourne architect says his own family home served as a test for his firm’s more ambitious projects, allowing him to make certain bold design decisions. “Not having to document and labour every detail was liberating, although it helped that we used builders who I’d worked with before; they allowed me to make design decisions as we went and had their input,” Dominic says. “Without this, it probably would have been a disaster.”

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    The sunken rear of the home makes you feel as though you’re emersed in the garden.

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    Pandolfini Architects director Dominic Pandolfini

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