In plain sight: FGR Architects’ contemporary Melbourne marvel

The exterior of a residential glass house on 2 floors with a pool. With the curtains open, the interior- lounge, kitchen and dining area are visible on the bottom floor and the bedroom visible on the top floor
Australian architects FRG have just completed the dramatic renovation of an existing 1930s house in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote
(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

A modest 1930s facade in Melbourne's inner city suburb Northcote conceals a breathtaking contemporary design.

Past the front door, only a couple of the original front rooms remain; one used for a study, the other a guest bedroom. 'The house fits in with the period streetscape. You’re not really aware of what’s going on behind the timber facade,' says architect Feras Raffoul, director of FGR Architects. 'Our clients had become attached to the period home, even though it had its shortcomings,' he adds.

FGR Architects virtually created an entirely new house behind the period facade. The contemporary ‘addition’ includes generous glazing at both the ground and first floors to take advantage of the garden aspect and generous light. Pivotal to the design is a lap pool and the double height canopy that soars to 6.5 m in height. Complete with an open fireplace, this innovative white concrete wall not only creates shelter, but also doubles as a projection screen (a video unit is concealed in the overhang outside the kitchen). 'Having the generous canopy also allows you to borrow views into a neighbouring garden,' says Raffoul, who was conscious of wanting to create a sense of space within the 500 sq m site.

Interactive ground-floor floor plan of a residential home

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

While the house is predominantly rectilinear in form, the liquid-like staircase at the front of the house separate the past from the present. 'The staircase softens the geometric lines as well providing an unexpected moment when you first enter the home,' says Raffoul.

Raffoul used the swimming pool as a means to delineate spaces at ground level. On one side of the swimming pool is the lounge, while on the other is the open plan kitchen and dining area. However, wherever one stands, there are unimpeded sight lines to the garden and swimming pool. In fact, there are few homes designed by FGR Architects that don’t feature a swimming pool. 'I love the way water animates an interior, with sunlight reflecting on the ceilings,' says Raffoul.

The first floor also features generous floor-to-ceiling glazing. Featuring a main bedroom, walk-in dressing area and lavish ensuite bathroom that takes advantage of the leafy neighbourhood, there’s a sense of residing in a five-star hotel. And while the owners don’t presently have children, when they do eventually arrive, there’s more than sufficient bedrooms for them to chose from, each one enjoying the same quality light and outlook as the couple presently does.

Side-view of the exterior of a residential home showing the green lawn, swimming pool and a seating area

The original period facade is pretty much all the architects kept from the existing structure. Inside, now the house is a bright and open, thoroughly modern home.

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

Interior view of a residential home, showing the lounge area white white walls and floor to ceiling glass windows . Grey sofs with cushions, side tables with potted plat and a center rectangular white table.

The contemporary ‘addition’ includes generous glazing at both the ground and first floors

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

A view of an outdoor swimming pool (partly covered by a ceiling and partly in the open) with sun loungers

Pivotal to the design is a swimming pool - a frequent feature in FRG Architects’ residential work

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

Exterior view of a residential glass home, showing the outside lounge are with 2 three -seaters, 8 persons dining table with chairs

A double height canopy soars to 6.5 metres in height and spans over the house’s terrace and garden

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

The lounge area of a residential home featuring an L shaped grey sofa with cushions/pillows, center rectangular white table, 2 black arm chairs. a black tv and fire place and a white stair case

While the house uses predominantly rectilinear shapes, a curvaceous, liquid-like staircase in the front room separates the past from the present

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

Exterior view of a residential white and glass home with a view of the pool, lawn, outside lounge area, inside lounge area and dining room.

Inside and outside become one, due to the house’s large openings and generous glazing. The architects wanted to make the most of the garden and the property’s views.

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

Sculptural staircase in a residential home featuring brown stairs and white banisters/walls with high windows and hanging white ball lighting

The sculptural staircase leads up to the house’s first floor, which hosts a main bedroom, walk-in dressing area and ensuite bathroom

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

Exterior view of a residential home, featuring long outdoor pool with a view of the white bath tub in the top floor bathroom

The architects used the linear shape of the lap pool to help with the layout arrangement

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)

An open plan kitchen in a residentia home. on the left of the kitchen is the ceramic worktop with the sink and a potted plant. on the right is an 8 seater dining area with wooden dining table and 8 grey chairs.

On one side of the pool is the lounge, while on the other is the open plan kitchen and dining area

(Image credit: Peter Bennetts)


For more information visit the FGR Architects website

Photography: Peter Bennetts

Stephen Crafti started writing on Architecture & Design in the early 1990s after purchasing a modernist 1950s house designed by Neil Montgomery. Fast forward several decades, Crafti is still as passionate and excited about seeing and writing on contemporary architecture and design, having published 50 books to date as well as writing for leading newspapers and magazines.