Kew Cottage by Walter & Walter, Series of Pavilions

A large singular space is often the way many architects approach a renovation, particularly when it comes to extending period homes. However, Walter & Walter took a different stance when it was commissioned to renovate and extend a Victorian block-fronted cottage in a tree-lined street in Kew.

And while the home was in relatively good condition, it suffered from a large 1990s addition that formed almost half its footprint. “That renovation made the house feel quite dark. It had very little connection to the north-facing back garden (on a sizeable lot of approximately 500 square metres),” says architect Andrew Walter, a director of the practice.

Designed for a couple with two children, the brief was driven by both increased light and spaces that offered a sense of privacy and containment as much as ones that allowed the home to ‘breathe’. The owners were also keen to live in an uncluttered environment as well as with two young children, one that was fairly robust. So, the solution was to entirely remove the ‘90s addition but retain the home’s original four rooms, tweaking them to now function as three bedrooms with a shared bathroom/powder room and a separate laundry. And juxtaposed to the original house are a series of metal-clad pavilions with a vertical profile that are connected via slithers of gardens and courtyards along with skylights, the latter including one long extended skylight that continues to the rear addition. One of these pavilions includes a double garage with a first floor given oven to the main bedroom, walk-in dressing area and ensuite (made possible due to a side lane that allows for car access).

The other three pavilions include a large home office capable of being used by the entire family that’s loosely delineated by the ‘floating’ timber veneer joinery that frames the passage. The kitchen and casual dining area forms another pavilion while the lounge, framed by sliding doors to the garden on one side and an elongated slot window on another side, forms the fourth. And while this arrangement creates privacy and a level of separation, each one feels different as a result of the various roof pitches – varying in degrees from 45 to 20 degrees. “The varying room pitches respond to the path of the sun, allowing the light to be appreciated where it’s most needed,” says Walter, pointing out the washed light that appears in the kitchen early in the morning. “The owners often refer to the design as a ‘sun dial’,” he adds.

As with other spaces in the Kew house, materials have been deliberately kept simple. The kitchen, for example, features extensive timber joinery (allowing clutter to be minimised) that complements the two-pack painted cupboards and timber floors. The only other material is the stone used for the kitchen’s splashback and island bench. And in order to create a fluid yet distinct arrangement of spaces, the staircase leading to the main bedroom, has been thoughtfully concealed to one side of the living area. “We were also mindful of aligning this staircase to the adjacent courtyard,” says Walter, who understood the pleasure the owners would have passing by the verdant outlook at the beginning and end of each day.

One of the other strategic moves made by Walter & Walter was to skew the new passage from the home’s original shotgun corridor. So, rather than seeing the new work immediately past the front door, one sees a blank wall and is gently led to follow a new passage, one that slowly unfolds. And while the different roof pitches respond to every space, so does the way light penetrates the home – soft in parts and, like the spaces, unexpected and delightful.

Architecture and Design by Walter & Walter, photography by Ben Hosking, and words by Stephen Crafti.