Sympathetically recessive: Ivanhoe East House

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In the leafy Melbourne’s northeast suburb, this relic of Australian modernism has undergone a transformation to restore its former integrity and give it contemporary relevance.

Originally designed by Hipwell Weight and Mason in the late 1950s and built on a sloping site on Yarra Boulevard in Ivanhoe East, the house is considered a significant example of architecture for its time.

After renovations in the 1990s detracted from its mid-century charm, the owners hired Pop Architecture to make interior alterations aimed at preserving and celebrating the original home’s recessive color and materiality, as well as its airy floor plan.

Directors Katherine Sainsbery and Justine Brennan referenced Neil Clerehan’s 1961 book Best Aussie Homes, which included the original blueprints and contemporary photos, and served as the template for the conceptual framework for the modification.

“The most spectacular thing about the house is the view over Yarra Flats,” Sainsbury said. “Internally, the experience is all about the view and the environment.”

The house sits on a cut shelf with the front of the house elevated and the main living areas on the first level. As you move through the house back and forth, the house becomes more integrated into the garden, with the living areas arranged to provide 180 degree views of Yarra Flats.

The house is intentionally recessive in color and materiality to relieve the predominantly wood interior palette.

Image: Willem-Dirk du Toit

The interior intervention is intentionally recessive, “to relieve the predominantly wooden interior palette”, the architects said. The othe riginal herringbone parquet flooring contrasts with the vertical expression of the wooden panels on the walls, while the soft-toned joinery and furniture provide a delicate counterbalance to the warm hues of the wood.

Pop has reinstated some of the concertina screens between the living room and dining room that were removed during the previous renovation, with two fluted glass sliding screens and woven rattan joinery – a detail taken from some of the original joinery.

“In the original house there was a partially fixed screen and a vinyl accordion door, which the clients had removed before the 90s renovation, and in its place they put heavy kitchen joinery,” said Sainsbery. “We were keen to revive the idea of ​​the screen in a more contemporary way, so the space could be reconfigured for different uses while still maintaining a sense of openness.”

The kitchen area, although contemporary in its design, has been reworked to resemble a 1960s open space with the removal of significant joinery.

The kitchen area, although contemporary in its design, has been reworked to resemble a 1960s open space with the removal of significant joinery.

Image: Willem-Dirk du Toit

The kitchen area, although contemporary in design, has been reworked to resemble a 1960s open-plan space with the removal of significant joinery. Pop incorporated pendant lights by local designer Coco Flip, which, rather than artifacts, are a contemporary take on Australian modernist design.

“We didn’t want the new design interventions to clash with the original features of the house. To avoid this and create a sense of balance between old and new, we took aspects of the original features and adjusted them for contemporary use,” said Sainsbery.

The peach bath has been overstated by the introduction of new electric blue faucets, and the beige vinyl floor has been replaced with blue-gray terrazzo.

The peach bath has been overstated by the introduction of new electric blue faucets, and the beige vinyl floor has been replaced with blue-gray terrazzo.

Image: Willem-Dirk du Toit

This is evident in the choice of materials in the family bathroom, where Pop wanted to accentuate the playful aspects of the existing design choices. The family bathroom’s original blue and pink scheme has been overdone with the peach tub and the introduction of new electric blue taps, and the tired beige vinyl floor has been replaced with blue-grey terrazzo.

Ivanhoe East House has had only three owners since its completion in 1960, making it a deeply significant family home and a repository of memory and the past. In its latest iteration, the house’s history has been peeled back through thoughtful interventions to reveal a treasured example of modernist architecture. Adding to the fabric and sentimentality of the home, Alex Caple of Caple Builders was engaged to deliver the construction work, who is the son of the current owners and also grew up in the home.

The resulting house is an example of authentic Australian modernism, sympathetically modified to help it become more contemporary in function.

Ivanhoe East House has been shortlisted for the Houses Awards 2022 in the Alteration and Addition category over 200 square meters.

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