Curvaceous architecture might be more attractive than those with lots of straight lines, but there is something about a crooked building that draws the eye in.

The Thornbury House by Mesh Design + Projects is one such project. Located in the inner northern suburb of Thornbury in Victoria, which contains a number of early century homes, the dwelling features an angled rear façade narrower at the bottom than it is at the top.

According to building designer Matthew Duignan, the team shied away from changing the 100 year old part of the residence, and instead introduced a small but contemporary addition at the back in a non-confronting way that respected both neighbouring homes and the streetscape.

“The back part of the house was basically falling apart, and we needed to redo the kitchen, living, and dining areas,” Duignan explains, adding that many elements of the 100sqm addition, including its form, were driven by green principles.

Initially, eaves were designed to protect the house from unwanted sun exposure, but the desire for high ceilings meant that these eaves would have to be set in really deep. To avoid this problem altogether, the team pushed back the whole façade, creating a determined angle that offers sun shade and protection, whilst bringing the light and sun in when needed.

Fully sealed, solid timber, double glazed low E glass from Grange Joinery was used on the windows and doors. The roof is made of corrugated roof sheets from Lyasaght

Recessed seating on the deck leading out to the back yard is also shaded from the sun

“We designed the rear of the home to include passive solar design, so we were blocking out the summer sun but letting in the winter sun that would heat up the polished concrete slab (used for thermal mass) and release heat into the home when needed most in winter,” says Duignan.

“As a result no curtains are needed for the double glazed windows with low-e glass , nor on the big glass doors.”

“[The angled form] wasn’t a deliberate design at the start, but it developed into a beautiful façade.”

Solid timber ‘spotted gum’ vertical planking from Woodform Architectural wraps around the façade for a warm finish, softening the sharp angles of the rear. Timber was also chosen in keeping within the desired palette of natural materials.

The timber requires a bit of upkeep and must be re-stained every year to protect and maintain the richness of its colour. However, Duignan says that the beautiful timber smell in the back yard, as well as the lovely variation in the timber, is worth the maintenance. In his words, “there’s nothing like using a real, solid timber material”.

The timber palette continues within the extension, which features a basic open plan design without any of the typical notions of living in a ‘large open box’. Defined areas of functionality are evident throughout, and the north-facing design has crowned the kitchen king of the spaces, surrounded by a large island bench and a more formal dining space.

Walls are insulated with Tontine polyester thermal and sound batts (R2.5) and Bradford Enviroseal reflective foil. The ceiling is insulated with R3.5 Tontine polyester thermal batts, and the roof Anticon's R1.5 foil backed recycled glasswool blanket

The kitchen bench top is made from Caesarstone's engineered polished stone surface, while Artedomus' Visore mosaic 45 x 45mm tiles were used for the splash back

To the east, the living area is protected from the sun, as is a small play area for the children. Here lies another focal point – a recessed aquarium that has replaced an old and inefficient fireplace, with accompanying hidden storage areas and a nook for sitting and reading.

Essentially a future-proof space, this feature wall does not stick out too much, yet manages to inject interest into the space.

The walls are painted in Resene's Thorndon Cream with low sheen

Environmentally sustainable strategies were also main drivers for the design, including the recycling of bricks for a boundary wall, and insulation of the home to push the boundaries of the required six star energy rating. The addition also did not encroach too much of the back yard, pushing out only by one or two metres.

“Because I’ve only been designing residential work for about three years now, it was a really good chance to utilise a lot of the energy efficient methods I’ve been pitching to people, and I really wanted to include all of them in this project,” Duignan says.

“It’s a really good test to make sure that they all worked in a small-scale renovation. And that’s what I love about this project – it achieves what we set out to do.”

Maximising what was available within a tight budget and site, the Thornbury House now has better, more flexible living spaces, proving that a solar passive home can be functional as well as visually appealing.

Photography by Peter Clarke. Source: Mesh Design + Projects