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Ben Callery Architects creates a serene and sustainable inner-city ret...

Ben Callery Architects creates a serene and sustainable inner-city retreat

Ben Callery Architects creates a serene and sustainable inner-city retreat

An example of how to do more with less through a clever architectural response, North King by Ben Callery Architects uses a large timber truss to open up this residence and let natural light flood in.

Designed to embrace both tranquillity and sustainability, this home in inner-city Melbourne offers its owners a true place of shelter. At the heart of the architectural response lies a king post truss, a simple and ingenious insertion that enables the living rooms to be bathed in warm northern sunlight.

Engineers and project managers themselves, the owners sought a home that embodied resource efficiency during construction and energy efficiency in everyday operation. The clients expressed their desire for a space that naturally embraced comfort, and invited the elements to play a role – where the seasonal changes could be observed and admired, like the changing hues of the deciduous tree in the west-facing backyard.

A Victorian worker's cottage from the street, looks different once you step inside

In response to this vision, Ben Callery Architects embarked on a design journey that prioritised sustainable materials, carefully selected for their eco-friendly manufacturing processes. The aim was to create a serene ambience with an understated yet energising aesthetic.

The key to the design is the unfurling L-shaped layout, which encompasses the kitchen, dining and living room – all effortlessly spilling onto a north-west facing deck. It’s in this area that the king post truss takes centre stage. Spanning an impressive 7.3 metres down the length of the house, it’s able to connect these four main living zones without any obstruction. The structural integrity of the truss also allows sliding doors open to pivot off it.

The kitchen at North King features a soothing green cabinetry that complements the timber floor

The pitched roof, an ode to the heritage section of the house, pays homage to tradition while embracing contemporary design principles. It stands proudly, rotated 90 degrees from its original orientation, where a cathedral ceiling imparts a sense of spaciousness to what is quite a modest footprint.

Triangular windows on the east and west façade invite the gentle touch of morning and afternoon light, while highlight windows on the north side flood the interiors with warming winter sun, casting a radiant glow over neighbouring rooftops. A thoughtful southern skylight positioned above the kitchen enables cross ventilation.

In the dining area, the pitched roof transitions into a skillion, while angled shaded slats adorn the pergola. Positioned at just the right angle, these slats welcome the winter sun while protecting against the intense summer rays.

The plan is for this outdoor area to be overrun by vines and lush greenery, organically taking over as a natural retreat space. Additional operable external Venetian blinds stand ready to provide adjustable summer sun control throughout the entire dwelling.

A dining nook at Ben Callery Architect's North King

The king post truss stands as a testament to the power of efficiency, demonstrating how a low embodied energy solution can achieve a large span with minimal impact. Crafted from natural timber, it not only serves as a structural element but also exudes warmth and charm.

For the interior, built in seating in the corner dining area ensures no wasted space, as well as just the right amount cosiness. Colours and materials are steered towards the natural, with the kitchen done in a soothing green to complement the timber.

Sustainability echoes throughout the home’s structural ethos. Absent are the imposing steel columns, beams, and portal frames, replaced instead by sturdy hardwood posts that harmonise with the overall design. Eschewing a concrete slab, the home rests upon sub-floor stumps, leaving a lighter environmental footprint. As a final touch, solar power generation on-site further underscores the commitment to sustainable living.

Project details

Architecture and interiors – Ben Callery Architects
Photography – Jack Lovel

The outdoor pergola will be taken over with vines and brings light to the interior of this modern extension
The front door gives a glimpse of what lies inside
A large truss has opened up the home, allowing light to fill the space
A fireplace for warmth
Original detailing has been kept in some places at North King by Ben Callery Architects
The bathroom looks out to an internal courtyard space
The pergola details


Aleesha Callahan is the editor of Habitus. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Aleesha seeks out the unique people, projects and products that define the Indo Pacific region. Aleesha was previously the editor of Indesignlive.com and has written and contributed to various publications and brands in her 10 years in the architecture and design industry, bringing intimate insight to her stories having first trained and practised as an interior designer. Her passion for mid-century design and architecture began while living and working in Berlin.