Melbourne house by Austin Maynard is deliberately half the size of its neighbours


A trio of glass-ended boxes forms this compact Melbourne house by Austin Maynard Architects, which was designed to give the resident family "just the right amount of space" (+ slideshow).

That House by Austin Maynard

Named That House, the two-storey residence is located in a neighbourhood filled with large properties. But locally based Austin Maynard Architects felt it would be better to make a more modestly sized dwelling for the family.

That House by Austin Maynard

The aim was to create intimate spaces that open out to an expansive garden, as well as a series of courtyards and terraces.

"Large homes are an environmental disaster for our cities, whilst also being a cultural/social disaster for our communities," explained the team, which is led by architects Andrew Maynard and Mark Austin.

That House by Austin Maynard

"By creating large openings and generous connections to the garden we aimed to make this modest-sized house feel abundant and broad," they said. "The result is a home that is almost half the size of its neighbours without compromising liveability."

The 255-square-metre building has a relatively simple layout, divided up into three rectilinear blocks. Two sit side by side at ground level, with a gap in between that becomes a central corridor, and the third sits on top, bridging both below.

That House by Austin Maynard

All three blocks have glazed ends, making it possible to look through from the street all the way to the garden at the rear. This helps the clients appear more welcoming to their neighbours.

That House by Austin Maynard

When they need more privacy, blinds can be used to cover the glazing. But these blinds extend upwards rather than downwards.

"How many times have you seen huge windows with their blinds permanently down? This happens because of the binary a downward blind creates – a downward blind provides no privacy until it is completely down," said the architects.

That House by Austin Maynard

"An upward blind enables you to cut out almost all view into a home while still being able to look out to the garden, and the street beyond," they added.

"This gives control over all levels of privacy and intimate control over the light let into each space."

That House by Austin Maynard

The ground floor of the house is divided up into a series of separate but visually connected living spaces.

A large lounge and study are on one side, while the other side contains a dining room, kitchen and smaller lounge.

That House by Austin Maynard

The corridor in between is framed both by free-standing bookshelves and partition walls with cutaways – resonating with the growing trend for "broken-plan" rather than open-plan living.

That House by Austin Maynard

"We're not fans of open-plan living," said the team. "We also avoid completely enclosing rooms or functions. We try to make the connection of each space adaptable and loose."

"The ground floor of That House is ostensibly open, however the arrangement of spaces allows the owners to be together, or secluded, or any level of engagement in between," they continued.

That House by Austin Maynard

"For example, someone could be quietly reading in the study, whilst another family member watches cartoons in the sitting space, and two others are discussing football at the dining table. They are within a large, shared area, however it is not a noisy open plan, nor is it a series of enclosed cells."

That House by Austin Maynard

At the centre of the house, the white metal staircase is perforated to allow light to pass through. It leads up to three bedrooms on the upper floor, two of which open out to balcony terraces.

That House by Austin Maynard

There are two planted courtyards on the ground floor. One sits between the dining area and the kitchen, while the other fronts the garden, offering a barbecue area.

An assortment of materials features through the building. Blockwork used for load-bearing walls is painted both white and grey, while red-hued timber fronts small rooms and storage areas, and also cover sections of flooring.

That House by Austin Maynard

In the garden, slender paving slabs recall planks of wood. There is also a timber-clad swimming pool that forms a T shape in plan.

Austin Maynard Architects previously went by the name Andrew Maynard Architects, but recently rebranded to recognise the role of co-director Mark Austin, who has been working with Maynard since 2007.

That House by Austin Maynard

Other projects by the firm include a house that hides a giant toy box under its floors and a residence designed to look like a village.

Photography is by Tess Kelly.

Project credits:

Architect: Austin Maynard Architects
Project team: Andrew Maynard, Mark Austin, Kathryne Houchin
Builder: Sargant Constructions
Landscape architect: Ben Scott, Garden Design
Engineer: R Bliem & Associates
Quantity surveyor: Cost Plan
Building surveyor: Code Compliance
Pool contractor: Out From The Blue

That House by Austin Maynard
Site plan – click for larger image
That House by Austin Maynard
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
That House by Austin Maynard
First floor plan – click for larger image
That House by Austin Maynard
Section – click for larger image
  • Leo

    This is my favourite house of the year. I would love to know how did they isolate the ceiling to get such a thin structure. It would have been nice to show these “famous” blinds in action.

  • SteveLeo

    How long before someone comments that it’s disgusting that they’ve let that child up there, and that he is surely going to fall and die…

  • Sim

    “Large homes are an environmental disaster for our cities, whilst also being a cultural/social disaster for our communities.” While reading that I was thinking “Yes! Yes! Yes!”. Because for a while now the 300m2 (or so) second homes (always with Y-back chairs at the dining table) have been annoying me.

    But then it turned out to be a 255m2 house. That is still really BIG you know. We have to become smart about these things.

    • Sim

      PS upon reflection, the floorplan is hideous. The main volumes of the house are so long that proportionally they are like hallways rather than rooms, and then that is made worse by making them narrower by placing functions like laundry (by the way, who in their right mind wants to do their laundry in the living room?) the bathroom, a wine cellar and a pantry.

      These spaces are narrow and long so most of the room in these spaces will be used for walking rather than the actual function. In the entrance I miss storage for coats and shoes (and where are the owners supposed to leave things like bicycles and buggies?).

      And then last but not least the pool. Who in their right mind wants to sit in their living room and look out at the sides of an elevated pool? Even if it is clad in wood? It also kind of destroys the whole transparency concept the architects had in mind (look at the picture from the hallway to the back of the house, the right side of the picture is dominated by the pool). It probably will make the garden look smaller as well.

  • Concerned Citizen

    In spite of the opportunities to crash to the ground, the design is clean and what many strive for. I just wonder what happens when the wind blows across the width of the house. Also, is insulation not required?

  • Zeb Kitchell

    255m2 is half the size of its neighbours? These houses are just way to big. 255m2 itself is 15m2 higher than the national average residence size of 240m2 (the largest in the world).

    It is pretty pathetic that this has been labelled a modestly size house, relative to the monstrosities in the neighbourhood. Australians need to get used to living in smaller spaces, but it seems the trend is going in the opposite direction. I’d be interested to know what suburb these houses are in.