Making the worst house in the street an entertainer's dream | Kanebridge News
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Making the worst house in the street an entertainer’s dream

Even a railway line and a horse racing track couldn’t sideline this exuberant project

By Robyn Willis
Mon, Apr 17, 2023 11:00amGrey Clock 4 min

I f you asked your architect for their opinion on a property you were thinking of buying, you would take their advice, wouldn’t you? Apparently not.

When the owner of this property in Caulfield asked director of Melbourne-based firm, EAT Architects, Albert Mo, what he thought, his verdict was clear.

“We advised him against it,” Mo says. “It was a pretty bad site, squeezed between Caulfield Racecourse and the train lines, which run along in front of the house. It was really rough in terms of the contextual relationship.”

But the owner bought it anyway, settling on the Edwardian house that Mo describes as almost derelict.

“When I walked into the house for the first time, it was in a shocking state,” he says. “The tin ceiling was in patches and the loft area looked like it had been done by a handyman.”

The original house was in a poor state when the architect first saw it but has been transformed into a welcoming entertaining space, complete with pool. Picture: Derek Swalwell

This slightly contrary behaviour could be attributed in part to the attractive sale price but also to the longstanding relationship the owner has enjoyed with EAT Architects. 

“This is the third place we have done with him. He trusts me and there is not much constraint in terms of materials but I do feel that it needs to be better than the last one so there’s that pressure to continually impress him,” Mo says.

The same builder the client hired on two previous projects also signed up to work on this one, which speaks well of the relationship.  

“He is a great client, although he was tight on the budget and we really worked hard for it,” Mo says. “But sometimes when you have constraints, you become more intuitive.”

The brief from the owner was simple. He wanted a place where he and his family could feel comfortable on a day-to-day basis, as well as creating an inviting space for entertaining.

“He loves entertaining,” Mo says. “He wanted the house back in time for (AFL) Grand Final day because it was all about the barbecue and the outdoor space.”

Despite the poor state of the original house, Mo says he was happy to have an existing structure as a starting point. However, with the train and power lines just beyond the front gate, Mo says providing a sense of comfort and sanctuary proved challenging.

“We had to provide a buffer between the train lines and the new extension,” Mo says. “If you see the exterior of the house, there’s the garden and the swimming pool before you get to the house. Then the long plain side becomes the living, kitchen and open plan area.”

The addition, which also includes the master bedroom suite and guest room, wraps around the original house in the shape of an L-shaped carpenter’s square, which has given the house its name.The new shape lends the family home a sense of structure and permanence. The original house was also restored, including the tin ceiling and brickwork.  

Upstairs, the ‘handyman’s’ loft was demolished and rebuilt to create the two kids’ bedrooms, offering an unexpected opportunity.

“Sometimes you can design everything but things happen because you are on site,” says Mo. “I saw the builder shaping out the roofline and it was just there. I call it the Darth Vader window because of its shape.”

Fitted out with an upholstered seat, underseat storage and casement windows, the dormer window is now a favourite reading nook for the kids.

The ‘Darth Vader’ window has proven popular with the kids. Picture: Derek Swalwell

Because budget was a strong driver, Mo extended the expression of the materials as much as possible. Brick has been used in the addition on the internal floors, as well as the walls, in a variety of patterns, elevating it into a true design element. 

In practical terms, it also creates spaces in this house that are thermally comfortable all year round, as well as providing easy-to-maintain floors ideal for entertaining and creating a sense of indoor/outdoor flow. 

Brick has been used for the walls and floors for practicality, as well as thermal comfort. Timber battens on the ceiling provide some acoustic insulation. Picture: Derek Swalwell

“We were trying to bring the outdoors in and create that sense that it was not just an interior space,” Mo says. “They are a family that likes to have parties and in a high use area in the kitchen and bathroom, you want to be able to mop the floor. They are sealed but it also hides the dirt quite well, and the visual appeal is very high because they are natural materials.”

Timber has also been used in unexpected places, with battens placed in a curved line across the ceiling, echoing the tin ceiling in the original part of the house.

“It helps acoustically when it is not in party mode and it gives the house a human scale,” Mo says. 

Noise from outside has also been mitigated, as much as it can be when your neighbours are passing trains.

“We double glazed everything.”



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UAE Residential Market Review Shows Strong Growth and Record Transactions in Q1 2024

The total transaction volume in Abu Dhabi for the first quarter of the year reached 2,795.

Thu, May 16, 2024 4 min

The CBRE Middle East, a global leader in commercial real estate services and investments, released its latest edition of the UAE Residential Market Review for the first quarter of 2024.

Abu Dhabi Market Overview

During the first quarter of the year, the total volume of transactions in Abu Dhabi stood at 2,795, registering a 22.6% increase compared to the year prior. This increase has been underpinned by an 18.1% rise in off-plan sales and a 34.5% rise in secondary market sales. In the year to Q1 2024, Abu Dhabi’s average apartment and villa prices increased by 4.3% and 2.3%, respectively.

Abu Dhabi’s rental market witnessed a total of 46,130 residential rental contracts in Q1 2024, registering a decline of 10.9% from the year prior. This has been due to a 15.5% decline in the number of renewed rental contracts registered and a 2.4% drop in new rental registrations over the same period. In the year to Q1 2024, average apartment and villa rents have increased by 4.5% and 1.1%, respectively. On the supply front, only 80 units have been delivered in Abu Dhabi in the first three months of the year, with all of this new stock being in Al Raha Beach. An additional 8,660 units are expected to be completed by year-end with 55.8% of this scheduled stock located in Yas Island, Al Sowwah, and Al Shamkha.

Dubai Market Insights

In Dubai, price growth has continued to accelerate during the first quarter of 2024, with average prices increasing by 20.7% in the year to March 2024. Throughout this period, average apartment and villa prices increased by 20.4% and 22.1%, respectively. Although headline average sales rates are still marginally below the 2014 highs by 0.1%, several prominent residential neighbourhoods have already surpassed their 2014 figures.

As of March 2024, average apartment prices stood at AED 1,486 per square foot, and average villa prices reached AED 1,776 per square foot. Average villa sales rates are currently above their 2014 baseline by 22.9%. Rental growth has also gained momentum in 2024, after a period of moderation in 2023. In March 2024, average residential rents registered a year-on-year increase of 21.2%, up from the 20.4% growth registered a month earlier. Over this period, average apartment and villa rental rates grew by 22.1% and 14.5%, respectively. Data from the Dubai Land Department revealed that, in the year to date to March 2024, the total number of rental registrations stood at 159,941, marking an increase of 5.8% from the previous year. As for supply, a total of 6,526 units were delivered in the first quarter of the year, with 59.7% of this supply being located in Meydan One, Jumeirah Village Circle, and Al Furjan. A further 46,086 are expected to be handed over the remainder of the year. However, given historic materialisation rates, the report expects that a limited portion of this upcoming stock will come online as planned.

Record-Breaking Transactions

March 2024 witnessed another record in Dubai’s residential market, with transaction volumes reaching the highest monthly figure on record, marking a year-on-year growth of 13.2%. Throughout this period, off-plan sales and secondary market sales increased by 20.2%, and secondary market sales increased by 2.2%.

In the first quarter of 2024, Dubai’s total transaction volumes reached 35,310. This is the highest total ever recorded in the first quarter of the year, marking an increase of 20.5% from the year prior. Over this period, off-plan transactions recorded an increase of 23.9%, and secondary market transactions rose by 15.2%.

However, in Q1 2024, the total number of sales transactions within the prime market segment registered a decline of 2.1% compared to the year prior. Throughout this period, super-prime transactions recorded a drop of 16.5% year-on-year to stand at a total of 227. These declines witnessed in both markets have been largely underpinned by significant declines in off-plan sales largely attributable to the high levels of demand for off-plan properties and the limited level of upcoming supply. In terms of performance, in the first quarter of 2024, average prime prices registered a year-on-year increase of 16.0%, standing at an average of AED 4,661 per square foot, and average super-prime prices grew by 14.8% over this period, reaching AED 4,978 per square foot.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai

Future Projections 

Looking ahead, CBRE expects Dubai’s residential sales market to maintain its upward trajectory. Prices in both the apartment and villa segments of the market will continue to grow, however, not at the same pace. On the rental front, we forecast that residential rents will continue to increase. That being said, the rate of growth will likely moderate.

Taimur Khan, CBRE’s Head of Research MENA in Dubai, comments: “The UAE’s residential market started the year on a relatively strong note, where the elevated demand levels continue to drive performance. The strong levels of activity and high absorption levels, which have reduced available supply, will continue to support price growth in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the remainder of the year. In terms of rental growth, we expect that rental rates in Abu Dhabi will continue to rise, with prime areas set to outperform the market. In Dubai, residential rents will continue to increase; however, not at the same rate that we have been seeing to date, and we expect that the rate of change will diminish in the second half of the year.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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