First appearing in "Domain" - By Jenny Brown August 3, 2015
In Melbourne's mansion suburb of Toorak, big-spend residential has been the template from the get-go in the 1840s. On a 2500-square-metre block sits a fine and symmetrical 1928 brick house, which has had such a provenance of deep-pocketed owners it has been through regular renovations by leading architectural firms.
The latest, by Molecule, is perhaps the least apparent in its tasteful manifestation, which is seen right through the interiors. Without doubt, it would also be the most comprehensive.
Not only did the architecture practice partners Anja de Spa, Jarrod Haberfield and Richard Fleming redo the house from the stripped-back shell of walls, ceilings and floors, they also put an incredibly appointed car park for the owner's car collection and a 12-seat theatre into a six-metre-deep hole in the backyard and then planted a lawn on top of it.
The car park – with a tiled floor, LED-lit parking bays, mirrored wall and a ceiling of light – is accessed via a ramped tunnel that becomes apparent only when the base-line section of the tennis court is hydraulically lifted. This folks, is amazing design.
"It takes a minute to lift the tennis court," Haberfield says, "and a minute to close it down."
The car park, which de Spa agrees "has the quality of a commercial showroom, or even a disco", was an idea pushed by Fleming. It is modelled on the Batcave that appears in the Dark Knight episode of the Batman movie franchise.
It is also why the architects code-named the benchmarking project, which they pushed through from drawing board to occupation stage in a mere year, "The Wayne Residence".
"In a very well-mannered heritage house, this is the secret subversive element," Haberfield says.
Ascending a staircase from the garage that moves up blackbutt treads into the lower-living floor, there is an experiential shift because, Haberfield says, "we were asked to reintroduce something of the glamour of a special, just pre-deco home".
"Earlier architects had stripped back a little too much from the grand spaces and we needed to bring back their period strength and character."
Aside from the casement windows and the room volumes, everything has been touched by the Molecule designers.
"It's the first project where we did everything from the car park to the cushions".
As de Spa explains, "everything from the wallpaper, the window treatments, the customised furniture and the joinery – including the walnut library shelving – has been very carefully considered and very carefully composed, because we were seeking timelessness in the scheme".
So fine is that detailing that all 12 floor rugs were designed by de Spa to fit like a kid glove into a classy family home.
Project image gallery is available here.