Clark House by SJB

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    SJB pull off a seamless update to the heritage-listed Clark House in Melbourne’s inner east, proving the old and new can coexist with confidence.

    Sitting in the smooth, modern kitchen of this East Melbourne home, you might be mistaken for thinking you’re in a brand new house – yet just around the corner, the front sitting room will take you back to Victorian times with its delicate detailing and classic leafy street views. It’s no easy feat to pull off the present and the past in such elegant harmony, but that’s exactly what Andrew Parr at SJB has done with this memorable home.

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    Originally designed and built in 1869 by Australian architect John James Clark as his private home, Clark House retained many historic – and some dated – architectural features. This is unsurprising when you consider Clark’s architecture career as the man behind some of Melbourne’s most notable public buildings such as the Melbourne City Baths, Royal Melbourne Mint and the original Treasury Building. After Clark’s passing, the home was registered as a heritage building, preserving many of its original features such as the stark white exterior and ironwork columns.

    SJB were engaged to “restore and refresh” the Clark House, working within heritage restraints while finding innovative ways to extend and modernise the home. To achieve this, they removed the home’s original octagonal gazebo, allowing more space to extend the existing house, and clarified and softened interior spaces,  bringing a contemporary spirit to the home’s classic foundations.

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    Working closely with Heritage Victoria and Council for over two and a half years to make sure the heritage character of the home was “respectfully retained and acknowledged”, SJB worked hard to balance the old and the new. Key architectural details such as the home’s original white exterior, ironwork columns and timber fretwork were all preserved, while the home’s classical layout (two grand-sized rooms at the front on the ground and upper level) were relatively unchanged, just refreshed and pared-back to allow new, contemporary additions.

    The extension is where more of the modern elements come out to shine, yet SJB weave in the home’s original and added structures together with elegance. Defined by a palette of greys, blacks and whites and a layout of long, horizontal planes, the extension shares characteristics with its classic companion, yet as SJB say “mimic the heritage portion without mimicking style”. Further to bringing the separate spaces together is the choice of furnishings, artwork and lighting, which feel confidently modern. Bold shapes and rich materials are showcased in pieces like the Bell Table and Tufty-Time Sofa, while shades of turquoise and navy add vibrancy to the living areas.

    Working within heritage constraints and faced with a traditional building required to meet modern life, SJB have well and truly risen to the challenge, capturing Clark’s design legacy while breathing new life into an architecturally significant home.

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