From a certain perspective, one could be forgiven for thinking that Deepdene House was nothing but a series of chimneys emerging from a landscaped canopy of greenery. But no matter how structurally interesting these chimneys are, that’s not how Kennedy Nolan’s Melbourne project came to win a national AIA award for residential architecture in 2016.
Kennedy Nolan was commissioned to design Deepdene House when the client decided their existing residence was too small for their family of seven. The context of the site was a neighbourhood in East Melbourne that was steeped in Edwardian-style architecture; a style that Kennedy Nolan was asked to pay respect to for their new build.
Treading the line between individuality and conformity, Kennedy Nolan decided to take cues from Edwardian architecture as well as a style that it historically overlapped with: Arts & Crafts architecture. The architects were drawn to the “proto-modernist” qualities of this latter movement, with its heavy dependence on crafted materials and decorative forms.
The arched corridors and sculptural chimneys of Deepdene House are deeply symptomatic of Arts & Crafts architecture, as is the material palette, selected specifically so that its patina will improve rather than deteriorate with time and wear. A pyramid-shaped roof and chimneys that emerge from tree canopies are also references to what Kennedy Nolan identified as salient characteristics of the Edwardian garden suburb.
In terms of structure, the home itself is split into two “sub-houses”, which are divided by a narrow corridor running between them. The first of these sub-houses is a single-storey structure that contains all of the “communal” areas used by the family. The second is a two-storey form inside of which can be found the family’s sleeping quarters.
The street-facing frontage features a ceramic shingle-roofed Edwardian chimney that is split into two separate funnels. While one chimney serves a traditional purpose, the other is used as an outdoor fireplace. In other words, the architects have gifted the family with an integrated wood-fire barbecue.
Although Deepdene House is not showy in terms of colours, the ones it does use are effective. For instance, a swimming pool in the courtyard is tiled a vibrant aquatic blue, which in turn complements the rich orange hues of the top chimney tiles. The remainder of the building is clad in white-painted brick and more subdued timberwork; classic touches to a home that finds its roots in an Edwardianism made modern.