An extensive range of architectural styles from our past and present greatly shape the character of our City.

This lifestyle series, written by one of Australia’s most prolific architecture and design writers, showcases exceptional architect-designed houses within Boroondara in celebration of the many personalities that make up the City we love.

Barton Street exterior entrance

Text by Stephen Crafti, photography by Peter Clarke

This striking new house in Barton Street, Hawthorn, reflects the heritage streetscape. The mirrored façade also frames the street’s camphor laurel, aligned to the home’s bridge-like entrance.

Designed by ADDARC Architects, this three-level house slowed down vehicular traffic, as well as those strolling by, as its form took shape. “We designed our clients’ previous home (also in Hawthorn). However, that house was more of a bachelor pad than a family home,” says architect Tamara Dunkley, director of ADDARC, who worked closely with her co-director, architect Rohan Appel, both of whom previously worked with SJB Architects for many years.

Designed for urban planner and a director of SJB Kel Twite, his wife Sonia Denson, who owns Rhodes Hair & Spa in Hawthorn, and their two children Rani and Lennon, the large family home (approximately 420 square metres) sits on a relatively modest site (300 square metres). “Sonia and I wanted a family home that was flexible and would respond to our needs as both the children and ourselves go through the various lifecycles,” says Twite, who requested two main bedroom suites, one at ground level, the other being on the top level. “Having a main bedroom at ground level means that we won’t have to put in a lift if the stairs become a problem with age,” he adds.

Barton Street living area

The home’s reflective façade opens to a dark and moody interior. Zinc used on the façade and roof wraps around the joinery inside the entrance. Black granite walls, and ‘floating’ granite-clad stairs, add to the minimal and recessive palette of materials used, including the polished concrete floors. “I’m a minimalist and prefer to have everything concealed. I would rather not see handles on doors or appliances, whether for the kitchen or air conditioners,” says Twite, opening one of the cupboards that frame the open-plan kitchen and living area. “Sonia prefers a little more texture and colour,” he adds.

The kitchen and living areas are almost inseparable, with a similar palette of materials used in both. The reconstituted stone island bench in a ‘gas meter’ grey is complemented by the grey/taupe two pack-painted kitchen joinery that extends into the living area. And to add subtle texture, the wall framing the television is finished in stained American oak. “We’ve tried to keep the materials as recessive as possible, while still creating interest,” says Dunkley.

Pivotal to the design is the impressive art installation by artist Rowena Martinich of Martinich & Carran. Her fluorescent paint creates a functional artwork as it not only illuminates the interior, but also acts as a screen in separating the living areas from the butler’s kitchen, laundry and garage behind. “We always intended to have something quite bold at this point of the house, but it was only when we went to one of Rowena’s exhibitions that the process with this art wall started to evolve,” says Twite.

Barton Street kitchen area

As important in ADDARC Architects’ design was the use of landscaping as an integral feature rather than as an afterthought. Designed by Jack Merlo, the verdant layer to the home starts with the front courtyard/lightwell connecting the children’s rumpus room at basement level. A green vertical wall also frames the staircase that leads to the bedrooms on the top level, including the main bedroom. And to deflect from the three-storey walk-up 1960s flats to the north, a second green wall frames the plunge pool in the home’s northern courtyard. “We extended the soffit of the first floor to reduce the effect of the apartments,” says architect Rohan Appel. “Even when there’s not a direct view to the garden, there are numerous points of reflection,” he adds.

Other highlights in the Hawthorn home include the home office/study in the basement that is beautifully framed by the granite treads in the stairwell. Also memorable is the view from the main bedroom on the top level, with the terrace framing a series of brick chimneys in a neighbouring street of Victorian cottages. “This area has such a variety of architectural styles,” says Twite, pointing out a 1970s concrete block architect-designed house.

Barton Street outdoor area and pool

One of the drawcards of this site, apart from the opportunity of building a new house, was the proximity of amenities, as well as distance from workplaces. Sonia’s salon is in Hawthorn, while Twite has easy access to his office in the city via tram. The children’s schools are also nearby as are the numerous parks, including St James Park at the end of the street. “There are five parks, from ovals to pocket-sized neighbourhood parks with a short walking distance,” says Twite, who can see himself staying in this house for decades to come.