The owners of the Ascot Vale House had a simple brief – to add a modest extension for a family of four, maximising natural light and ventilation, and creating a strong connection to the rear garden.

However, this immaculately built 70-year-old, two-bedroom interwar home had significant challenges: its oblique orientation set at 45 degrees off true north and a stringent heritage overlay.

Originally hand-built, the Ascot Vale House was one of the first brick veneer homes in the area. The house received unusual light in all rooms, except the kitchen, which was set in the middle, received minimal natural light, and had a poor connection to the backyard. Being small and compact, the heritage overlay meant that a traditional double storey extension on the back wasn’t possible.

Architects James Taylor and Peter Knights of Taylor Knights took it up as a challenge, with their ingenious design for the extension involving thinking outside the square.

Taylor Knights created two new sections to the home: A lower floor, containing a new kitchen and living area, cranked at 45 degrees to create little courtyards on either side of the living space and orientate the building to get true north light coming into the middle of the house.

“This simple move creates a series of light courtyards and gardens in and around the new addition and a light, lush backdrop to the space,” Taylor said.

Being keen gardeners, the owners wanted to make the garden the hero. “With the cranked extension, on three sides you have a different garden and each garden that’s created by that extension is quite different because of the amount of light it gets. So, the one on the north is really different to the one on the east – which has ferns and plants that thrive in shady environments,” he explained.

A new master bedroom has been added on the first level extension. “The first floor is actually in the old roof line and we designed it so it sits between hips on the original rooves. And you can’t actually see the extension from the street, so it doesn’t take away from that beautiful front elevation,” Taylor said.

The material palette is inspired by the client’s love of bricks and natural materials, and the intricate and immaculately preserved brick and hardwood detailing of the original home.

“The owners always wanted a brick house because of its timelessness and durability. We chose Krause Emperor bricks in Grampian Blue because of their profile and how they referenced the old house, particularly around the eaves, windows and doors. It’s a contemporary monolithic form but there’s a level of craft in the brickwork and you see that around the openings with the header bricks. The irregularity of the natural product is just beautiful,” Taylor observed.

The bricks from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd are paired beautifully with a standing seam cladding on the outside, while on the inside, American Oak veneer on the kitchen cabinets ties in with the cabinetry in the original part of the house, sleek polished concrete covers the new floors, and charcoal cork lines the walls, creating an incredibly functional and attractive surface.

The clever design has created a space that’s adaptable to the different needs of the family. “Because the interwar house didn’t have a central corridor, it almost has a circular circulation pattern, so with the big sliding doors and cavity sliders you can close off and open up spaces; there are lovely connections between the spaces as well so you can sit in the front room in the original house and see all the way through to the new extension, or close that off, if you want to,” Taylor added.

Photographer: Derek Swalwell