An Architect’s Sleek Multi-Generational Family Home In Northcote

The pandemic has undeniably changed the way we look at housing, and in turn, what our houses should look and feel like.

For MA+Co principal architect Karen Alcock, her partner, and their son Luca, enduring Melbourne’s on-again-off-again lockdowns from their 108-square-metre Fitzroy home inspired the decision to upsize.

‘Our son was nine when Covid hit, and after two years of homeschooling and being confined in the walls of our existing house we decided we needed to swap the density of inner-city living for something bigger with a garden,’ Karen says.

‘We also wanted to design a home that could grow with us — we needed space for my parents to stay and an area where Luca our son could grow into his independence.’

Eager to renovate, they came across a run-down Northcote worker’s cottage that had been lingering on the market for a few months.

The early 1900s building was in poor condition, with plants growing through cracks in the walls and rotten floors, and while the frontage was only three metres wide, the block itself was almost three times the size of their former property.

‘Several developers had looked at the site for townhouses but couldn’t get it to stack up and with limited interest, the vendor dropped the sale price, opening the door for our purchase,’ Karen says.

With only the front facade able to be salvaged, the rest of the home was rebuilt from scratch with only electric appliances. The robust architecture was kept deliberately simple, instead championing the surprisingly lush laneway garden designed by Amanda Oliver Gardens that runs the full length of the block — giving every room a leafy green view.

All the materials were also selected for their affordability and durability. Corrugated iron, polished concrete floors and a stainless-steel-wrapped kitchen add to the home’s ‘quiet’ aesthetic.

Karen says the unique floorplan now offers the flexible spaces her family craved during the pandemic. ‘The long plot is divided into three parts, for three generations: the middle area is the primary zone, including the main bedroom, living and kitchen, with self-contained zones at either end to accommodate our teenage son and grandparents or guests, as well as space to work from home,’ she adds.

Northcote House is the perfect blend of functionality and clean aesthetics, creating a place that will adapt with her family’s changing needs in the years to come.

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