Solutions to the housing crisis can come from unexpected places: from design competitions, from underutilised building stock – even from within the back garden.

While a garage would typically be considered adequate sleeping space for cars and not much else, Austin Maynard Architects managed to transform one on a compact, laneway-bound site into a home fit for humans.


“Melbourne’s property market is so inflated that we’re now seeing a generation that [is] not only unable to buy [homes], but also struggling to find affordable places to rent close to their work, school and community,” says the architect.

“Melbourne does have one trick up its sleeve that many parents are increasingly exploring: Melbourne is strewn with under-utilised laneways, and many homeowners are creating a second residence in their backyard with frontage to the laneway, where their adult children can live during university and early employment.

“These residences are becoming fully independent studio homes for adult children, allowing them to save and plan, while continuing to contribute to the essence of Melbourne’s most vibrant and cultural suburbs.”

Austin Maynard Architects was approached by just such a family, who requested a conversion of their garage space into something more habitable for their daughter. The garage – which already had a studio located above it – was large; it dominated the garden and compromised their outdoor space. The architectural solution was a win-win for liveability and re-use.



Brickface is a new build reimagined from existing space; an unassuming building at the rear of an existing house in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Constructed from recycled brick, it consists of a garage at ground level, a studio living space on the first floor, and a roof deck. To connect back to the existing home, Austin Maynard added a new pool and entertainment space that, together, act as bridging connections. A lack of garden is compensated for by the roof deck.


“The new building, though taller, is smaller, tighter and more efficient,” says Austin Maynard Architects. “It minimises its footprint to maximise the rear yard.”

Thanks to its recycled brick façade, Brickface looks to have existed well before the other buildings along the lane – that is, except for a pattern of red- and blue-glazed bricks that juts out from the otherwise homogenous, clay-orange wall. A spiral stair adds further sculptural interest, while round windows and a parapet soften the solid block of recycled brick.



“While Brickface offers the security of a permanent, independent home for the owner’s daughter in years to come, it has also been designed to adapt to changing transport needs. With the rapid onset of driverless cars, we will see homeowners searching for new uses for their garage spaces,” adds the architect.

“The ground level at Brickface has been deliberately designed with high ceilings, so it can easily be adapted into generous living space. The garage door can be removed and replaced, to create a generous entry into a lounge, or alternatively the owner’s daughter may choose to start a business on the ground floor and simply replace the garage door with a glazed shopfront.


“There is a swathe of potential for this space that, at the moment, is only a temporary storage zone for vehicles. Yet, in the future, it can be so much more.”