Home to Rob Kennon and his family, ‘House on a Lane’ has emerged as a prototype for reconciling heritage and contemporary facets through a focus outwards towards its walled gardens.
A study in thresholds, architect Rob Kennon’s home harbours a sense of resolve between its period front volume and the integration of a new addition to the rear. Composition, recessive materiality and intuitive spatial planning define it as a vibrant sanctuary for his young family living in Melbourne’s inner north. Acting as its primary threshold and design focus, a walled garden sits between the built environment and a rear laneway, cultivating a welcoming sense of arrival.
Rob Kennon’s home presented a unique opportunity for his studio to resolve a heritage home on a tight site by flipping the client-architect narrative and developing a fresh understanding of how a home is put together. A new-double storey addition at the rear is bookended by a heritage renovation and a walled garden landscape which emphasises the home’s quintessential Melbourne laneway locale.
When viewed from the laneway, Rob’s home first appears as a concrete silhouette in the recognisable form of a chimney. This visual and material engagement is one of a section of negative space between the red brick of the heritage home and the garden wall. The intentionally restrained material palette, coupled with an unfussy, simple structure, allows the building to recede into the background giving focus to the leafy garden at the rear.
While the layout is not unconventional, it draws on a bank of knowledge collected by Rob across years of designing family homes. The heritage part of the house, containing bedrooms and a study/living space, has been sensitively restored and rebuilt to prolong its thermal life. Between this and the walled garden, the addition presents as a physically and aesthetically complimentary zone allowing the home’s period and botanical atmosphere’s either side to take visual precedence.
In-situ concrete, precise symmetry and a cool, neutral palette ensure the living, kitchen and dining zone remains a stage upon which the family, the detritus of life and the garden become central characters. This approach to design cultivates the notion that this is a home that exists for the pursuits of its inhabitants, between the graphic expression in materials such as terrazzo flooring, pleated paper pendant lights, timber grain and stone veining, and the bursts of colour in artwork.
Rob’s home demonstrates the architect’s capacity to create duality and accord. It is a home that overtly delineates zones in sync with contemporary living patterns while unifying them through a tangible emphasis on the garden. Fusing subtle notes of heritage into the new addition with views onto the red-brick walled garden, and contemporary notes into the existing, the home assumes a timelessness entirely of its own.