Sometimes You Just Need a Simple Wooden Box

Words by Anthony Richardson

When we think of our 'dream home', it's usually a never-ending list of things we want inside, which often gets out of hand. Mick and Jules Moloney from Moloney Architects had a similar problem when designing their own home in Ballarat, but decided a Wooden Box House is all that they needed.


Can you imagine actually sitting down and designing your own home? You probably have done something like this, even if it was on The Sims or even on SketchUp. With it being your home, you want it to be everything you ever wanted. For most of us however, when it's time to actually design and build our home we'd take it to an architect. Imagine though if you were the architect of your own place? It's a common perception in the industry, architects are their own worse clients. The reason for that is if you're an architect designing your own home, you effectively have unlimited (and free) architectural services.

This was for the case for Mick and Jules Moloney from Moloney Architects, where they worked through 3 or 4 design for their own home in Ballarat. They had some pretty fun ideas including a squashed pyramid roof, double-height void spaces, cantilevered bedrooms and Mick said they "even had a internal swing-set in there at one point." However they needed to ditch the internal swing-set because the birth of their second child was fast approaching, and they made the decision to design something much more modest but still ticked all the boxes of what they needed. And it ended up being a paired-back simple wooden box which was added to the back of their Victorian cottage.

The original Victorian cottage was renovated and contains their architecture studio, bedrooms and bathrooms, with the new extension containing their new kitchen, dining and living space. Wanting to maintain and show respect to the heritage of the cottage, there is a connection space with a dropped ceiling which allowed the existing roof to go unchanged and the new extension to almost stand on its own. 

With the new extension facing north, Mick and Jules wanted to take advantage of this aspect with a simple but highly effective window seat. "The window seat is the most sought-after space in the house," Mick says "the hard part is finding the will to go back to work after sitting down there for a mid-afternoon cup of tea." Looking at their window seat, I can understand how it would be a struggle. This window seat also provides storage space, as well as letting in an abundance of natural sun, given the chilly Ballarat winters this is only a good thing.

The kitchen becomes a bit of a social space, and no surprise it is the heart of their family home. Wanting to have conversations while cooking, the island bench contains the cooktop and enough space for stools. “We love how open it feels, and with the north face of the kitchen space almost all glass, we can open the wide multi-fold doors and connect to the outdoors,” Jules said.

The wooden box extension use quite raw and honest materials such as formply, exposed timber beams and flooring. “As designers, we are particularly interested in the grain and warmth that natural materials like timber can bring to a space. In this project we’ve employed raw and unadorned materials like plywood and formply to create a relaxed and informal atmosphere. This really encapsulates the way we like to live,” said Mick and Jules Moloney. These materials weren't just chosen for their beauty and texture, but they are quite inexpensive and hard-wearing, which is needed for a family of five.

Look up and you can see the story of their approach to a simple wooden extension, with the exposed timber beams using Tasmanian Oak. The ceiling also helps to define space within an open volume, with the exposed beams over the kitchen and dining, and a plaster ceiling over the living area. Who knows what their home would look like if they had a double-height void extension with cantilevering bedrooms and a swing-set inside, no doubt it would have been beautiful. However this shouldn't be looked at as a 'downgrade', simple, honest, modest, it's an extension that anyone would love to call 'home'.

We asked ourselves what it was that we really needed. At the end of the day, we felt that we would be happy with just a simple wooden box added to the back of the old Victorian weatherboard that could open the house up to the north light and engage with the backyard.
— Mick Moloney, the architect and client


Project Name _ Wooden Box House
Architects _
Location _
Area _ 180m²
Project Completed _ 2016
Photographer _
Christine Francis |

Published with BowerBird

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