One of Australia’s hottest young architects, Andrew Maynard, has just unveiled a dreamy new addition to the back of an old Victorian Rowhouse in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, Victoria. Only 15 feet wide, the Moor House is a beautiful mullet of a residence—business in the front, party in the back. The front of the home was left as is, with a humble, aging white façade, but its back was removed to make way for a new solar-paneled, daylight-filled dwelling. Maynard's design took the rowhouse's traditional blocky, monolithic structure and divided it up into three staggered boxes, creating a hierarchy in space and a sculptural, modernized look. Working within a cramped area—15 feet is about the length of the average car—Maynard had to make the most of every millimeter.
The diagrams for the house reveal inspirations as quirky as Miyazaki’s anime film Princess Mononoke, which encouraged designers to go for "an accumulation of little features that shapes the entire image." By avoiding a single blocky unit and instead stacking and staggering small cubes, Maynard created a light well at the center of the house, which illuminates rooms from three sides instead of just two.
The eco-friendly structure is split into three volumes—one on the bottom floor and two on the top, which house bedrooms. Maynard tells Co.Design, "The eaves allow sunlight to flood the internal space in winter (as the sun is low), while excluding the sun completely in summer (when the sun is high), which allows for passive solar gain."
Bright red paneling pops on the upper level’s façade. Cozy banquettes and a built-in desk conserve space, while a steel-framed sliding glass wall converts the kitchen into an idyllic indoor-outdoor area, merging it with the timber deck. "The thermal mass of the kitchen's concrete floor allows it to hold the heat from the sunlight that hits it," Maynard says. "It slowly releases this heat throughout the evening, passively heating the house. This works the opposite way in summer. As the sun does not hit the thermal mass of the floor directly it remains cool."
The Moor House design is remarkable in its transformation of an aging and claustrophobic space into a thoroughly modern dream house, proving that bigger isn’t always better. A 15-foot-wide space that makes people ooh and aah has implications that reach far beyond Fitzroy—what if such smart architectural planning could be applied to tiny apartments the world over, making all of our shoeboxes feel like palaces?