Located in a tight urban pocket of Toorak, the constraints of this 200 sqm triangular-shaped site would have deterred many. However, the property owners and architects of Molecule Studio saw the compact site and its restrictions as an opportunity to create a contemporary family home that strongly referenced its environment.
Architecture: Molecule Studio
Photography: Derek Swalwell
Architecture & Interiors
Molecule StudioLed by co-directors, Anja de Spa and Richard Fleming, Molecule Studio is a holistic architecture and interior design practice formed in the spirit of collaboration, curiosity and creativity. Based in Melbourne, their designs form a strong connection between architecture, interiors and landscape. When working with Molecule, you get the best of both worlds – pragmatism matched by experimentation and rigour that always has room to move.
constraints dictate form
The Story Behind The Design
An unusual shaped and tight site was just one of the constraints Molecule Studio faced when designing this contemporary home with a family-sized brief. Ambitiously, the small footprint needed to consist of two living spaces, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a swimming pool to satisfy the family of five.
In addition, the site featured a hundred-year-old brick drain spanning the boundary, a flood overlay and overhead high-voltage powerlines. Responding to the multitude of restrictions significantly impacted the design and budget, but resulted in a striking home that adds value to the occupant’s lives and the surrounding neighbourhood.
Replacing a dilapidated and poorly oriented Victorian weatherboard cottage, the architectural form of Triangle House is built of robust materials and fosters a strong connection to the landscape. Molecule Studio’s Anja de Spa explains, “the client’s brief requested a ‘beach house’ in an urban context. This idea was thought of as an opportunity to embody the new home with a similar relaxed spirit and connectivity to outdoors that the clients experience at their beach house at Phillip Island.”
The site’s obstacles, particularly the street’s imposing powerlines that required the building envelope to be set back 4 meters off the front boundary, paved the way for a harmonious connection between the architecture and landscape.
The connectivity to the landscape and the generosity of outdoor space differentiates the house from its neighbours and belies the compact 200 sqm site size.
Anja de Spa
Take a closer look
The exterior materiality of Triangle House is divided into two layers to settle it into its context and embody the ‘beach house’ aesthetic. Anchoring the form is the ground floor which is finished in a painted cladding that has been treated as dark and recessive and punctuated by large expanses of glazing.
“The timber cladding of the upper level is conceived as a continuous sinuous element,” says Anja. “The corner prow of the upper floor projects into the open arena of the street, intended to sit in harmony with the large eucalyptus trees which occupy the neighbouring reserve to the southeast corner of the site.”
Internally, the materiality of the home is inspired by Australian geology and vegetation, says Anja. “The crimson of a eucalyptus trees before it sheds its bark, the deep green of Wattle leaves, dark pebbled rivers and natural bluestone.” A palette of tonal paints, laminates and terrazzo have been paired together with vibrant colour highlights throughout the interior spaces.
Both the interior and exterior materials are rich and layered, complete with bespoke joinery to accommodate the angles of the compact form. “This provokes areas of energy and areas of calm through the zoned family and retreat spaces,” says Anja.
Fittings & Fixtures
Muuto 'Nerd' chair
LEDlux Disk LED
Designer Doorware ‘Catalina’
'Rufus' by Jardan
Douglas & Bec ‘Y Chandelier’
Eggcup by Mark Tuckey
The materiality of the exterior and interior are rich and layered – provoking areas of energy and areas of calm through the zoned family and retreat spaces.
Anja de spa
The required 4-meter boundary set back allowed for a front garden with space for a raised swimming pool; a luxury in such a tight urban setting. Designed in collaboration with Laguna Pools, Molecule Studio created an insitu off-form concrete pool with Bluestone coping. Visually, the black-tiled interior and dark surrounds enable the water to act as a reflection pool with the added benefit of being a valuable lifestyle amenity.
A considered design approach addressing every square centimetre of this angular build has made the most of this compact home for its five occupants. The nautical-like form and layer-by-layer design are bold but necessary to harness the potential of the unique site that was fraught with so many restrictions.
Achieving a holistically designed home that considered architecture, interior and landscape as one and has transformed the client’s lives has been the main success of the project, Anja explains. Rather than build a home that fights against the limitations and stands disconnected with its surroundings, Triangle House appears to be at one with the site, completing the neighbourhood streetscape.