The long and narrow site of West Bend House in Northcote, Victoria, required a unique design to maximise its size, rear views to Merri Creek, and functionality to suit a family of five.

Provision of both communal and private areas was important, as well as generous outdoor spaces. MRTN Architects achieved this by designing the home in sections around a north-facing outdoor courtyard (positioned just beyond the home’s entry), creating an intersection between the internal passageway, external pathways, dining area, and a centrally located family studio space. ‘We didn’t want to limit outdoor spaces to the back garden — it would just take too long to get there,’ explains Antony Martin, director of MRTN Architects.

These interconnected areas are reminiscent of small villages on hills in Italy and France, which Antony says influenced the entire project. ‘In addition to the way you move through them, we were interested in the clustered appearance of these places from a distance.’

The somewhat modest facade is respectful of the surrounding landscape, particularly Merri Creek to the rear. At its highest point, the home looks out across mature trees to Rushall train station and the city beyond. 

The facade’s scale is also in keeping with the 1853 stone house — believed to be the oldest house in Northcote — that was previously on site. The original stone portion of this home was demolished at an unknown date, although the circa 1880 brick addition remains next door. 

MRTN worked closely with Brave New Eco to design the home’s interiors. Their challenge was to configure the predominantly open-plan interior spaces to feel cosy and settled to complement the strong architectural design. 

Both MRTN and Brave New Eco had worked with the clients before, therefore bringing an intimate understanding of their lifestyle and needs to the project. In particular, Brave New Eco worked intimately with the clients to design custom joinery specific to their desires. 

SBLA Landscape Architecture also collaborated on the project to design the landscape elements, while Lew Building managed the construction. Not only did these collaborators collectively enrich the home, Antony says they helped deliver the project quickly and efficiently. ‘By dividing the scope of work required into architecture and interiors, time was saved.’ 

Last but not least, this house is fully electric, with heat pump in-slab heating and a battery backup solar system. Rainwater tanks and solar passive orientation further maximise the sustainable performance, creating one of Northcote’s most impressive contemporary homes.