Home Tour | Matthews House by Kennedy Nolan

  • Kennedy Nolan looked to one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to reunite this Melbourne home with the present.

    German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe rose to fame in the first half of the 20th century for his pared-back, “less is more” approach to designing buildings; something seldom explored at the time yet so ubiquitous today. The architect’s Barcelona Pavilion has been regarded as one of the most significant modernist buildings on account of its structural integrity and robust material palette, rendering it a major source of inspiration for contemporary architects. 

    Melbourne-based architecture firm Kennedy Nolan, who specialise in residential architecture and design, are known for their seamless integration of past and contemporary. Matthews House, the Melbourne home of two working professionals and their four young kids, perfectly captures the firm’s deep appreciation for the work of modernist masters through a palette inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.

    The new kitchen features stained American oak cabinetry custom-designed by Kennedy Nolan, Verde Alpi stone (Artedomus Predia), Muuto Nerd bar stools, Artemide Dioscuri ceiling lights, Vola tapware, and a Wolf cooktop and oven.

    Matthews House by Kennedy Nolan

    Spaces were reordered to reconnect with the garden, which Patrick says used to feel “strangely remote”.

    The Brief

    The family had lived in the house for five years before Kennedy Nolan intervened, during which it had grown to be impractical and obsolete in many areas. Conceptually, the project was grounded in the elevation of the existing home (from a planning perspective, mainly) and in the merging of mid-century and modernist styles to create a fresh yet familiar aesthetic.

    “We find it useful to look at projects like these as a series of problems to be solved, or better yet, optimisations to be achieved,” Patrick Kennedy says. In this case, the home’s modernist interiors were not depicted in the best light; an inevitable result, Patrick says, of incremental change “eroding” their original intent. He also notes the exterior did not match up to the elegant interiors, and the garden felt estranged from both.

    Sculpture by Vera Moller

    The Layout

    The process of reviving Matthews House began with reconfiguration. “Reordering the spaces became necessary to ensure all levels of the house were functional and inviting,” Kennedy Nolan director of architecture Adriana Hanna says. “We saw our principal job as making sense of the house as a single entity.” Existing spaces were edited to reinstate their utility; a new kitchen and new bathrooms were added; the exterior was re-pitched to the street (this time stronger and clearer); connection to the garden was prioritised. Patrick refers to these interventions as “reinforcing the layered functions of the house to elevate the experience of living.”

    The Palette

    Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion is shaped by a large-scale travertine platform with dark caramel and deep-green coloured stone walls. Comparably, Matthews House consists of Classico raw travertine floors, warm walnut joinery and Verde Alpi stone, with the addition of dusty rose carpet and blush-pink marble. Adriana notes that these materials were chosen not just for their likeness to the iconic 20th-century building, but also for their longevity and robustness.

    Each material in Matthews House culminates in an arresting landscape of colour and texture, complete with twists and turns and of course, countless sources of nostalgia.

    Warm walnut joinery meets dusty rose carpet in the main living area. The space features the Knoll Saarinen Tulip dining table and GUBI Coco chair, as well as artworks by Nonggirrnga Marawili and Huseyin Sami. The back space features a Halcyon Lake rug and a painting by Cameron Gill.

    Each material in Matthews House culminates in an arresting landscape of colour and texture.

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