Hearth of the home: Arthur

Hearth of the home: Arthur

Oscar Sainsbury, director of Oscar Sainsbury Architects (OSA), and his family had already lived in this Melbourne house, called Arthur for its street name, before they decided to demolish the existing lean-to extension and build a new kitchen, dining and living space at the back. Designed to contrast with the solid brick of the old part of the house, the new extension is in timber with ample glazing that, in effect, “replaces” the walls. The result is a contemporary and light-filled home that’s connected to the outdoors.

For the architect, one of the trickiest aspects of the design was that the building is in a flood zone, meaning that the floor had to be above a minimum level. This resulted in a limited sense of connection to the garden out the back. OSA’s solution was to slice an angled section of the building to incorporate an internal courtyard to the house’s north. “The central deck creates a transition between the old and new addition,” says Oscar. “It opens up the building volume to the north for light and sunlight.”

The central deck creates a light-filled transition between old and new.


Rory Gardiner

The kitchen design is dominated by timber: cladding and decking in sustainably grown silvertop ash; windows, rafters, joinery and benchtops in Victorian ash; and flooring in Tasmanian oak. Instead of a traditional splashback, the walls above the kitchen benches are glazed with windows that open out to create a connection to the deck. Small, green-grey tiles have been laid vertically on a tiny splashback and in the recess of the kitchen bench. Finger pulls are made from recycled brass pipe fittings and were designed by the architect.

OSA believes that the kitchen should be designed not simply for functionality, but as another room for living in. This means that it needs to connect to the rest of the house. At Arthur, the long, 4.5-metre bench that joins the kitchen with the deck also replaces the need for an island bench. Oscar says: “The island bench reigns at the moment, but they make you focus internally. We didn’t want that. We wanted to connect externally, so we decided to treat the long timber bench as the island.”

Two neutral bathrooms sit side-by-side. One is more utilitarian, with a toilet and laundry. In the other – the “good” bathroom – a terrazzo tile on the floor wraps up the walls to bench height. The white tiles above are laid vertically. As with the kitchen, OSA sees the bathroom as functional but also as more than function. “The important thing in a bathroom is to have dedicated areas for storage so you can free up the rest of the space. [It has to be a space] for sunlight to come in, a nice place to stand when you are showering.”

This lightweight extension is highly functional, but it is also about more than function; it is about spaces to live in.