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Big thinking behind a small design

Big thinking behind a small design


When Jos Tan Architects was approached with a brief to create a new kitchen and dining area for a compact brick house, they had to take a creative approach to fit within budget.

The Melbourne home is one of a pair, built side-by-side c.1930 and the owner, a keen cook wanted to create a new kitchen and dining area that could entertain a large gathering and open up to the backyard. The existing bathroom and external laundry were both also to be replaced with new.

The owner initially envisaged that the rear of the house would be completely demolished for the new addition. Jos Tan Architects explored this option, but soon concluded it would not be feasible with the available budget, explains practice owner Jos Tan.

The outdoor space and kitchen of a compact Melbourne home

“As an alternative, we proposed retaining most of the existing brick structure, demolishing the internal walls, and building a small extension out to the side. This saved money in new structure and roofing while still allowing the entire back section to be reconfigured. As a bonus, the home’s visual and physical connection with its twin next door would be maintained.

“Basically, we found a way to create the required functional areas by staying within the existing building shell and a compact little addition rather than demolishing and building anew.”

Kitchen design by Jos Tan

Bricks were salvaged from demolition and re-used in the extension. In the bathroom, fittings and fixtures were located in former door openings to increase effective width while preserving a memory of house’s past.

Vic Ash was used for the flooring, benchtops and reveals and matching veneer for some of the cupboards. The benchtops, reveals, and timber joinery were stained to match. In the kitchen, splashback tiles are hand-made by Mutina in Italy, while the bathroom tiles are a mix of matt glazed ceramic tiles and mosaics.

One of the biggest challenges of the project emerged in the bathroom, where space is extremely tight.

The skinny bathroom

“We only had just over 1.4m between the external brick wall and boundary to fit in a new bathroom,” says Tan. “After taking wall thickness and finishes into account, we were left with less than 1.2m. That is a skinny bathroom.

“To make it work, we located the vanity and fixtures within the alcoves left by the former door openings, providing enough usable space, and a nice feeling of depth. We also liked how the alcoves hinted at the history of the house and what used to be there.”

Entrance to the bathroom off the kitchen

Photography by Jos Tan and Tom Ross.


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