Revamped Melbourne house hides a giant toy box under its floors

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A floor that doubles as a toy box and a vivid yellow bathtub both feature inside this remodelled Melbourne house by local studio Austin Maynard Architects (+ slideshow).

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The Melbourne studio, previously known as Andrew Maynard Architects, was tasked with transforming a simple bungalow into a practical home suited to the lifestyle of two occupants – a woman and her young son.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

To achieve this, the architects have more than doubled the size of the property, named Mills.

They added a new two-storey extension behind the single-storey building, and planned a layout to offer plenty of storage without compromising on space.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

Rather than building cupboards along the walls, these are instead integrated into the floor of the family's new living room.

"For her and her newborn baby, the client wanted a light-filled home that could hide the mess. We gave her a floor that was a giant toy-box," explained the team, whose past projects include a property made up of seven house-shaped blocks.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

"Everyone wants an abundance of storage. Terrace homes are roughly six metres wide," they added. "After adding walls, corridors, stairs, heating panels and cupboards, we are left with very little width for living space."

"What if we didn't have wall cupboards? We'd get almost one metre of space back into the width of our terraces."

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

This living space occupies most of the ground-level floor space in the extension, which is separated from the original building by a courtyard. The raised flooring helps to divide the room into a lounge and a play space, and make it easy to tidy toys away.

This prompted a new name for the building: "the toy management house".

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

"Gravity is colluding with your child and conspires in its favour," said the team. "Parents constantly pick things up, whilst kids throw them down."



"The trick is to work with the chaos a child brings rather than naively hoping that your child will choose to be neat," they said. "At Mills we have made gravity the parent's ally rather than the child's by enabling the floor to swallow all the mess."

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The gap between the two floor heights is 450 millimetres – meaning the stepped surface is also well sized for use as a seat.

A dining area is located on the higher level, positioned beside the courtyard.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The kitchen counter sits on the lower level, occupying the corridor between the new and old parts of the house – a space that would otherwise have been useless. The counter has a height of 900 millimetres, and even integrates an extra seat for the dining table.

"We upholstered a seat under a flap on the kitchen bench so that there can be one extra seat at the dining table when visitors are over, or when Louis wants to cook with mum," said the architects.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The extension is glazed, but has a perforated metal skin that helps to protect the interior from harsh sun exposure. This skin is punctured in two places at ground level, allowing the staggered living space to merge with the brick terrace outside.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

Perforated metal was also used inside the building, for the staircase leading up to two new bedrooms, as well as for the flooring of the upstairs corridor. The aim was to allow as much light to circulate as possible.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The master bedroom features a wall that slides open, while the children's room boasts more of the toy box flooring from downstairs, as well as a bunkbed that overlaps with a desk and bookshelf.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The family bathroom is also located on this floor, framed by a large window. The yellow bathtub is the centrepiece of this space.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

"No one likes cleaning a bathroom. Adding a bathtub to a small space creates a lot of fiddly details where grime, mess and mould can gather," said the design team.

"To avoid the mess, and to create a bathroom that was easy to maintain, we made our own bathtub out of fibreglass."

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

A second bathroom is located in the weatherboard-clad original house, along with a study and a guest bedroom.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

The 154-square-metre Mills house is the first project completed by Austin Maynard Architects since it rebranded to recognise the role of co-director Mark Austin, who has been working with studio founder Andrew Maynard since 2007.

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard

Other projects by the firm include a greenhouse-like house extension and a property with a periscope-shaped tower.

Photography is by Peter Bennetts.


Project credits:

Architect: Austin Maynard Architects
Design architect: Andrew Maynard
Project architects: Mark Austin and Natalie Miles
Builder: Grand Plan Properties
Engineer: Hive Engineering

Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard
Site plan – click for larger image
Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard
First floor plan – click for larger image
Mills toy management house by Austin Maynard
Long section – click for larger image
  • rickbradner

    Brilliant! So many clever solutions on display here. Of course “in-floor storage” has been used in Japan for many years, but it has been taken to a new level by the innovations in this house.

    In addition to the storage solutions, the use of metal mesh as flooring, the open ceiling to delineate circulation, the light shelf around the upper window are only a few indications of the thought that went into developing the program for this family. Top marks to the architect.

    I suspect they’ll be able to do a pretty good side business in bathtubs as well if they choose to put it into production!

  • Concerned Citizen

    I like the toy box. It doubles as a place to throw the kids when the parents are having a party. Everything seems great, except for the tub. Its design leads water right into the joint between the wall and tub.

  • Maria

    This sized house for a women and her young son? Materialism at its greatest. Disgusting.

    • BongCastaneda

      WOW! Having a good-sized house means being materialistic and disgusting?! You can disapprove but to use the word disgusting for something that is not a crime or not morally repugnant is too strong.

      No one should dictate how a person decides to live, provided that person is not doing anything wrong and against the law.

      Did it ever occur to you the woman may have more children in the future? Or the boy can grow up and decide to have many children of his own? The woman prepared for her child’s future and you think it is disgusting when she paid for it with her own money?

      Your attitude is disgusting, judgmental and totally out of place.

    • Think

      What an ignorant comment. You seriously consider this a large house for two people? Great work as always from Andrew Maynard and team. Looking forward to what this inventive practice does next.

  • EFS

    Inspired, and I love the tub too.

  • scotsims

    The child’s bedroom is a deathtrap.