Simplicity was key in this unique Carlton renovation, from the arrangement of forms through to the timeless quality of the kitchen
Updating Victorian terrace houses for modern living has become part of the urban architect’s bread and butter, turning dark, narrow spaces into light-filled, open-plan domains. Clients often arrive with a brief that reflects their passion for cooking or a desire to incorporate sustainability, but it’s not every day they come to the table with two terraces in Carlton on a single title.
Faced with this unexpected combination and abundant space, Riofrío Carroll Architects chose not to double down on the built volume and instead doubled up on the simplicity of their approach to the project, inspired by the client’s own ease in entertaining and their openness to experimentation in the kitchen. It’s a spirit that was mirrored in Angela and Michael Kelly’s willingness to embrace the design process – and made these committed foodies well-suited for the innovation and possibilities of the V-ZUG range.
“Every time we met with the clients it was in the kitchen and they would cook while we were talking [about the new design] and we could see how their life was,” explains architect Nelson Riofrío. “They’re very social, there are always people at their house, their neighbours are always visiting, they are very open in that way.”
The architects’ solution was to imagine two typical gun-barrel extensions to the Victorian frontages but raise one and twist it ninety degrees to create a first floor addition at the back of the property that runs north-south rather than east-west and overhangs the garden to form a shaded courtyard. To maintain the conceptual foundation of the design – and cooking at the heart of the clients’ lives – this twist has its central axis in the kitchen space.
“It gave it a strong architecture but it also solved the solar requirements as well, and good orientation for the living room and bedroom,” says Riofrío’s colleague, Tom Carroll. “It gives it quite a bold look and we think a timeless look, too, through its simple forms.”
To meet the clients’ further desire for a neat space that had an aesthetic relationship with the indoor and outdoor entertaining areas that peel off the kitchen, the architects used a minimal material palette, clever cabinetry and the clean lines of the V-ZUG range of appliances.
“V-ZUG has an understated simplicity that matched the overarching design. They’re neat and functional – and of a quality to withstand heavy use,” says Carroll.
The Kellys were familiar with V-ZUG through friends who had introduced them to the brand’s unique cooking capabilities over a memorable meal.
“So when we were getting more serious about our renovation we looked into V-ZUG,” says Michael. “The functionality, the efficiency, the whole philosophy behind the brand and what they have delivered. And they’ve got a pared back, subtle elegance about them [that] really fit in with the aesthetic we were trying to create.”
The Kellys have been more than delighted with their choice, adding a raft of new cooking techniques and tastes to their repertoire.
“Having a steam oven was a whole new experience,” says Angela. “It’s that professional chef secret, the steam oven, because it’s used all the time in commercial kitchens, so you’re getting the edge that you don’t get in a standard oven. Because it cooks with steam nothing dries out but it’s brown and its moist, it works on everything – you can even cook toast in it! It keeps the quality and the integrity of the food without desiccating it.”
However, their choice wasn’t just about good looks and cooking. Sustainability was at the core of their renovation and in addition to hand cleaning the bricks from the demolished walls of the buildings’ earlier additions, they re-used or re-homed a significant amount of material. Hardwood timber framing went to a furniture manufacturer, the flooring to Ballarat, the stained glass vestibule doors were recycled and all those bricks found new life in the box-on-a-box extension.
Michael and Angela’s environmental approach then focused on base utilities and resource usage.
“We wanted to get rid of fossil fuels so we cut the gas off, went all electric appliances, put solar PV on the roof, put in a heat pump reverse cycle system and double glazing,” says Michael. “The idea was to aim for electrical appliances that were as efficient as possible for net energy consumption – minimising the amount of draw on that self-generated power so we didn’t have to consume from the grid.”
The credentials and ratings of the V-ZUG range – including the induction cooktop and the Adora dishwasher – met their brief. “By having highly efficient devices you’re able to have get that degree of energy independence.”
V-ZUG’s commitment to sustainability starts from concept and carries on throughout its design philosophy, starting with a 100% carbon neutral production facility and using high-quality natural materials for longevity. When the appliances reach the customer the focus on resource reduction continues with the inclusion of tools like EcoManagement and EcoHybrid, which allow customers to monitor their energy and water use and tailor their selections for more sustainable outcomes without compromising performance or results. Further innovations such as the heat pump, the OptiTime program and the water saving tank in the AdoraDish V6000, which stores the last rinse from the previous wash to use as the first rinse in the next wash, are delivering the water and energy efficiencies the clients and their architects had aspired to.
It’s a testament to the Kellys’ enthusiasm, despite being first-time owner-builders, that they are effusive about the renovation experience. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done, it was so much fun. We couldn’t be happier with Riofrío Carroll’s design; they matched exactly what we wanted to achieve.”
That enthusiasm has always been evident in their approach to cooking, using food as a vehicle for sharing good times with friends; now they have a home and kitchen to match and really showcase those talents