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Home Tour | Hidden House by Studio MKN

Fredericia Spine Stool

The new kitchen space features benchtops clad in CDK Fio Di Pesco stone complemented by joinery made of black timber veneer, along with Fredericia Spine stools, an Astra Walker sink mixer in matt black finish, and a Miele oven, induction cooktop and integrated dishwasher.

A designer’s hidden sanctuary in inner-city Melbourne seamlessly integrates a new concrete extension with an existing Victorian-era house and its lush garden.

Sanctuary is a word with myriad meanings. For Meredith Nettleton, founder and design director of Melbourne-based architecture and interior design practice Studio MKN, it denotes a space in sync with its natural surroundings. “Our innate connection to nature profoundly impacts our overall well-being,” the designers says. “The presence of greenery, natural light and views of the sky wield tremendous power over our daily experiences and state of mind.” Meredith’s home in Melbourne’s St Kilda East, which she designed in collaboration with Eliza Blair Architecture and landscape design studio Mud Office, embodies this ethos, championing a palpable connection to nature through an expansive pavilion discreetly nestled behind an 1880s white-brick house.

Meredith’s vision was to create a modern family home that aligned with both its 19th-century origins and natural surroundings. Privacy was also a key concern, with the designer seeking innovative ways to conceal the home from the neighbouring development along the rear boundary.

Designer Meredith Nettleton in her kitchen.

Moller #77 Chair
Snedkergaarden Johansen Table

The Cassina Cab chair and Tom Dixon Stone portable table lamp feature in the moody study nook.

A steel portal and dark-timber-lined corridor link the existing house with the pavilion, establishing a clear distinction between old and new. Upon entering the pavilion, which houses the open-plan kitchen, dining area, and sunken lounge, inside and outside fuse together as natural light and greenery permeate the space. “The addition maximises its spatial footprint, extending gracefully into its surroundings and culminating in a sunken lounge that appears to ‘float’ amid the lush garden,” Meredith says.

A series of full-height pivoting timber screens emerge as a distinctive feature of the sunken lounge, offering flexibility to open the space to the garden or provide protection against both the afternoon sun and privacy from neighbours. Meredith emphasises the significance of this space as a “haven” where her family can gather and enjoy the unique sense of immersion in the landscape it offers. “It’s one of my favourite places in the whole house,” she says.

Arflex Strips Sofa
Snedkergaarden Johansen Table
Moller #77 Chair

Meredith describes the sunken lounge area as a “haven” where her family can gather and enjoy the unique sense of immersion in the landscape it offers. The space features the Arflex Strips sofa and La Chance Bolt stool. The dining space behind it features the Snedkergaarden Johansen table, Møller 77 chairs and a Serge Mouille pendant.

Cassina 412 Cab Chair

The Cassina Cab chair and Tom Dixon Stone portable table lamp feature in the moody study nook.

Drawing on her appreciation for authentic and timeless materials, Meredith selected concrete, veined marble and blackened steel for the pavilion. “There’s an inherent beauty in allowing these materials to retain their natural essence and integrity,” she says. To counterbalance the austerity of the concrete and steel, elements such as the light-timber flooring, rich walnut furniture and blackbutt timber shutters were introduced to infuse warmth and vibrancy into the interiors. “Every material possesses the robustness needed to withstand the rigours of daily life without compromising on style or sophistication,” she adds.

The furniture selections reflect Meredith’s understated yet bold design approach. Standout pieces include a sculptural blue sofa by Cini Boeri for Artflex, a classic leather lounge chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, and an elegant walnut dining table by Mads K. Johansen. “Each of these elements has been carefully selected to impart a sense of calm to the interiors,” she says.

Flos Tab LED T

The landscaping by Mud Office was key to Meredith’s vision of an urban sanctuary with an unprecedented sense of seclusion. Pictured in this space is the Flos Tab Led T table lamp.

GUBI Grasshopper Floorlamp

The GUBI Grasshopper floor lamp in the upper living area. 

A series of full-height pivoting timber screens emerge as a distinctive feature of the new pavilion, offering flexibility to open the interiors to the garden or provide protection against both the afternoon sun and the neighbours.

Spotlighting the finer details within her home, Meredith says it’s the small things that truly elevate a space. “The original Victorian features, from the opulent marble fireplaces to the ceilings adorned with intricate skirtings and cornices, imbue the home with a timeless charm,” she says. “A concealed door leading to the bathroom never fails to elicit surprise, unveiling a lavishly appointed space enveloped in terrazzo and bathed in natural light.”

Harmonising with nature and daily life rhythms, the ‘Hidden House’ underscores the value of investing in personal sanctuaries.

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 52: The Nature of Design.

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