A "Rusted Extension" atop a Modern Home | Ruby Street by Foomann Architects
The original home, designed by C.C. Sainsbury in 1957, and although an absolute gem, was getting a bit cramped for Amanda and Ben and their growing children. After reaching out to a few architects, one of them highly recommended Jo and Jamie, Foomann Architects, and they kicked it off from there.
Amanda needed two kids’ bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, storage and a laundry. They also wanted to showcase their book and art collection, but also “part of the renovation to remain true to the existing architecture.” This was no worries at all for Jamie and Jo, who identity as Modernists, and looked to preserve as much as they could. “When I walked through the gates and saw the house properly for the first time, I was legitimately excited,” Jamie recounts, “It’s a beautiful home.”
This wasn’t your typical “Melbourne extension” where you knock down the shoddy 80s extensions on a Victorian terrace, so how do you design an extension to an already beautiful piece of Modern architecture? You go up of course! Looking at how the upper-storey extension would mesh with the existing architecture was the first step when it came to designing Ruby Street. And with any two-storey building, whether brand new or an extension, the location of the stairs is always a challenge. A challenge that Jo relished! “There was no obvious location for it,” Jo explains about the stair location, “there had to be sacrifices in the footprint.” Although there were some compromises, the result was this beautiful “stair void” that also had plenty of storage and a clever little laundry cupboard. One of the best outcomes from their stair solution, although you wouldn’t know unless you asked Jamie and Jo, was being able to maintain all existing windows.
Foomann Architects were able to solve a lot of the main brief requirements in their “stair void”, and although it looks simple, it was far from it. It was an extremely complex puzzle, so much so, Jo decided to retired… Okay, she was joking about retiring, but the complexity was far from a joke! However, it has its payoff. “This stairwell is a bit of a hero of the house,” Amanda tells me, “the incredible window that frames the beautiful birch tree out there.” It also creates one of the more beautiful views from inside the house, when you get to sit at the kitchen bench and look through the glass door, through the (retained) existing window, into the stairs does offer something special, especially at night when the lights are on. Although I didn’t experience that view during the evening, I do agree with Amanda that it is an amazing view. What makes it such a special view is the relationship between 1957 C.C Sainsbury and 2018 Foomann Architects, with the existing and the new meshing so well and seamlessly together.
Looking at the extension, you can’t miss the Corten cladding. “When we first saw the cladding in place, we loved it.” Something that Amanda was onboard with from the get-go. There was extraordinary craftsmanship with the builders, Fido Projects, where they went as far as folding their own profiles, just to get it perfect. Of course of the best qualities of Corten is the ageing process. “Seeing it change in the elements and getting its rusted-weather look is also something that we really enjoyed the process of watching it evolve,” Amanda describes, “it was like the architecture was changing around us.” The Corten was such a good choice, it works amazing with the existing red bricks, and definitely makes an impact and a statement.
It was probably six months since Jamie and Jo visited Ruby Street, and I wanted to know, being back at the house, what made them most proud. Jamie talked about the laundry, as it’s quite representative of the project, and such a complex design problem which resulted in an elegant solution. “I mean the truth is, it’s the way it’s used,” Jamie explains, “that’s always going to be the most satisfying thing.”
A renovation that not only ticks all the spatial requirement, not only creates an impact for those passing by, but most importantly gives the owners a sense of settledness, is truly a successful project. “It’s certainly made an impact on how we feel,” Amanda tells me, “we’re quite settled when we’re in the house.”
Be sure to watch the full video above to see the beautiful extension and hear from Amanda, Jamie and Jo. Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel to help support what we’re doing.