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Clifton Hill Courtyard house by Studio Mkn – a cottage within a city

Clifton Hill Courtyard house by Studio Mkn – a cottage within a city


Melbourne practice Studio Mkn is all about simple and timeless residential renovations, as featured in one of its most recent projects, the Clifton Hill Courtyard house.

To remodel this late 19th century home to accommodate a modern lifestyle, which encompasses a master suite with ensuite and walk in robe, plus two additional bedrooms, a central bathroom and laundry, it takes skills. 

Light was needed, so the practice created a light-filled open-plan living extension that would replace a dated and poorly planned 1980s addition, as well as a garden studio. 

The new family home would need to cater for twin toddlers, a teenager, as well as guests visiting from overseas. 

A garden studio was therefore suggested to accommodate this flexibility as well as helping to shield views from a neighbouring development.

Clifton Hill Courtyard house now features a brick and glass extension, which fits snugly onto the back of this double-fronted weatherboard worker’s cottage.

Designed to capture light from the north, as well as views of an existing bottlebrush tree to the south, the layout responds to both the site and the family’s desire for future flexibility. 

With laneway access at the rear, a double-storey garden studio nestles into the back of the site, providing a green backdrop to views from the calm spaces within.

Adapting this century-old cottage to the needs of today’s way of life came with challenges. 

Being on a long and narrow south-facing allotment, the key challenge was how to get daylight and sunlight into the back of the house, as well as fit in all the functional requirements of the brief. 

The other key challenge was to design a home that could cater for all age groups both now and into the future. 

The practice overcame these issues by making smart choices.

Despite courtyards taking up space within the centre of a floor plan, Studio Mkn embraced the concept, knowing the benefits would outweigh the loss of backyard space. 

Not only does the courtyard bring northern sunlight into the plan, but it also creates relief at the end of a long and narrow hallway. 

A deciduous tree that changes colour with the seasons creates a focal point for the eye, as does the texture of the neighbouring brick wall. 

The courtyard insertion also creates a more zoned open plan arrangement, with the living room enjoying a dual aspect to two different landscaped spaces. 

For the purposes of a modern lifestyle, the planning needed to carefully consider these spatial relationships. 

A multi purpose space that fronts onto the opposite side of the courtyard, allows visual connections to the rest of the house, but with the flexibility to become a guest bedroom if needed. 

The garden studio with its own ensuite and mezzanine is intended to accommodate a range of functions including storage, gym, home office, teenage retreat and bike store.

Photography: Shannon McGrath

Discover also how The Tree house, named after the established trees on the banks of the river, a project by RUBI Architects, is one with the environment.


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