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McPhail House, Essendon, Victoria, Australia by DESIGN BY AD

Project name:
McPhail House
Architecture firm:
Essendon, Victoria, Australia
Tatjana Plitt
Principal architect:
Aydan Doherty
Design team:
Interior design:
Built area:
150 m²
Site area:
300 m²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
Divitaris Consulting Group Pty Ltd
Environmental & MEP:
Kate Patterson Landscapes
Tools used:
Align Concepts
Glass, Recycled Brick, Aluminium Steel
Residential › House

DESIGN BY AD: McPhail House embodies a modest yet resolute approach, seeing a subtle extension to the rear of an existing heritage cottage. Drawing inspiration from layered and rich history of the existing home, the resulting materials and formal silhouette continue a similar story in place, through a contemporary lens.

In preserving the overall streetscape and its placement amongst the other row houses, the addition is deliberately recessive, blackened to create a hierarchy from approach. As its own new form yet distinctly connected to the original, the modern elements make a statement of their own while still sitting modestly on site. Located in Essendon, and as the result of overcoming the existing scaled one-level weatherboard cottage form, the site becomes better activated, expanding the useable floor space notably. 

Using the existing slope of the roof as a guide, the extruded form is expanded to the rear, widening to make better use of the site. A similar restraint and crafted approach are used throughout, binding the old and new together with similar materials and tones across both. A more contemporary interpretation of detailing and the handmade is expressed in the addition, where generous openings and glazing connect the interior to the surrounding landscape. 

Together with landscape design by KPLA, McPhail House was built by Align Concepts and is intended to have both a soft and impacting affect. From within the original front rooms are retained in their scale, offering a place of retreat and formal separation. The newly opened combined living, dining and kitchen space then becomes the heart of the home. As its own gathering, nurturing and entertaining space, the openness created enhances the opportunity for connection, reinforced by the siting of the shared space to the rear. Pulled back from the street, and by drawing the main active areas of the home further into the site, a greater sense of separation and disconnect is created. 

Intended to age with grace, the palette used within repurposes the original weatherboard timber cladding as it wraps around the additional form, while inside a mix of timber, polished concrete flooring and a monochromatic base offer a sense of balance – awaiting the fluctuations of time, yet not bound to them.

What was the brief?

A single storey addition to an Existing dettached Victorian weatherboard cottage. The brief on the small unusual width site was to retain the primary part if the existing dwelling, front façade, front two bedrooms and hallway with the plan to then introduce a modest contemporary single storey addition that consisted of a master bedroom with WIR/Ensuite, Main Bathroom, Laundry, Kitchen, Dining, Lounge and two kids bedroom with built in robes and desk.

Externally and interanlly clients where open to all ideas with no precedent or exmaples of what they wanted to achieve. 
The one comment was that it must have wow factor and be different from the norm in some way.

The intent from a floor plan end was to open it up, and at the same time create break out areas within along with making the most of the visual aspects to external elements including utilizing borrowed and new landscape. We feel it’s important on these tight sites to increase visibility to the external elements to create greater sense of space.

From a facade it was to create a fun unusual facade the was a clear contrast to the existing but did not overpower it. 

The existing dwelling and site presented the challenge that it was located close to the north boundary with a driveway width of space along the south. On a site that was a standard terrace width site and not your typical elongated terrace block. 
Forcing us to build to the south with little oportunity to open up to the north.

What are the sustainability features?

The existing dwelling and site presented the challenge that it was located close to the north boundary with a driveway width of space along the south, on a site that was a standard depth inner city terrace block. Forcing us to build to the south with not much. oportunity to open up to the north the itroductuction of a north facibg atrium became the only way to intriduce north lifght into the dwelling.

knowing we we face with west facing rear facade ae wanted to create a huge cantilever of the roof to protect the dwelling from summer sun.

- large overhung to west facade allowing maximum light miminal heat gain 
- introduction of a glazed north atrium to break the floor plan and intoduce northern light internally. 
- no gas 
- low e glass 
- minimal south windows. 
- outdoor entertaining area designed with large flaoting overhang to west 
- maximises existing dwelling footprint. with minimal demotion. 
- durable australian made materials. 
-Solar Hot water system 
-operable windows located for cross ventilation 
-Ceiling fans, hydronic heating thoughout 
-Daylight maximised , LED fittings 
-Solar PV system 
-operable windows located for cross ventilation 
-high performace alumnium improved double glazed windows with low -e 
-inulated slab to new area with hydronic heating 
- maximum new insulation to existing dwelling

How is the project unique?

The McPhail House, built by Align Concepts and featuring landscape design by KPLA, expertly navigates the challenges of its site to ensure maximum comfort throughout the day. The McPhail House is a shining example of how a modest 150 sqm home can comfortably accommodate a growing family with clever use of joinery detailing.



Established in 2010, DESIGN BY AD is a small vibrant practice at the forefront of building design and Interior design in Victoria. The practice has been involved in a diverse range of residential and commercial projects. DESIGN BY AD prides itself on the comprehensive range of services it offers its clients, with proven design success.

The mission of DESIGN BY AD is to deliver high quality, environmentally sustainable and responsible buildings whilst developing and maintaining strong, productive relationships with clients. Creating beautiful homes that are well considered and fit for purpose. Each project is designed to have its own individual identity whilst responding to the broader context.

We attribute our successful outcomes to collaborations with like-minded clients, builders and trades.

We aim to provide a positive experience for clients as we strive to ensure that designs  meet individual , environmental, site and systemic requirements, that exceed expectations. The practice has experience in a wide range of projects from small, commercial to larger renovations and new dwellings. We offer a range  of services that include architectural building design and interior design.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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