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Location: North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia

Site area: 309m2

Existing house: 95m2

Addition: 68m2 (53m2 ground + 15m2 first)

Total Floor area: 163m2

Year: 2018

Architects: Austin Maynard Architects

Project Team: Andrew Maynard, Mark Austin, Natalie Miles, Ray Dinh

Photography: © Tess Kelly Photography

More and more Australians are working from home. Kiah House explores a new approach to the home office, while also fulfilling the owners need for a strong and positive sanctuary.

Kiah House is an addition to a weatherboard cottage in North Fitzroy, Melbourne. The extension comprises two separate pieces of architecture, the master bedroom ‘haven’ – which sits beside the original house extending to the northern boundary, and the separate office poised above. The original Victorian-era house, built in 1927, has been respectfully restored and updated with a new kitchen and bathroom.

The owners, Angela and Rahul (and their three cats) had a clear idea of what a home meant to them – “a sanctuary”. They wanted a light and airy house, with a “strong and positive vibe”, to entertain friends and family and also to relax and meditate. Influenced by Japanese gardens and the Buddhist retreats of Kyoto, the design responds to the client’s desire for peace and mindfulness.


A bedroom can be far more than just a dark space at the quiet end of your home. A bedroom can be a contemplative, meditative space that at one time is wrapped up cosy and tight in layers of beautiful heavy curtains and then open to the outdoors the next. At Kiah House we were charged with the task of creating spaces, both private and shared, that spill out into the garden and yet adaptable enough to create solitude and privacy when needed.

The master bedroom ‘haven’ has a dedicated Buddhist prayer space and opens up to the garden and ponds via sliding double-glazed glass panels blurring the lines between inside and outside. The towering lemon scented gum tree is enclosed by a small deck area, a place for the owners to “sit and meditate”.

The roof of the retreat is turf, covered in plants and edible vegetation (Disphyma Crassifolium) to provide an abundance of insulation as well as creating a buffer in the event of falling gum tree limbs. Accessed via a modest ladder, the green expanse also means the study is not overlooking a dull roof, instead Rahul looks out on a thriving roof garden.


Kiah challenges the suburban binary of the ‘front yard’ and the ‘backyard’. In this small enclave of North Fitzroy, an unusual road lay-out has led to some houses having two street frontages at either end of the block (see diagram). At the rear of Kiah, high fences and ugly garage doors dominate the neighbours houses, while across the road, on the northern side, old weatherboard homes form a traditional street front.

We found the defensiveness of the rear elevations to be odd. We decided that the backyard should be a second front yard. Kiah engages with the northern street and the northern neighbours. The new deck is elevated enabling views and interaction with the street. The new bedroom retreat faces directly onto the street, with operable louvres that allow Rahul and Angela to connect as much, or as little, as they wish. The new bamboo fence allows view and light between the garden and the street. A pedestrian gate creates a new ‘front door’ to the northern street where previously a high and defensive fence turned its back. more

Austin Maynard Architects