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Host House plays with juxtapositions, materiality and experimentation in design

Laveta Brigham

It’s a home that is hard to miss in suburban Brunswick East, Australia. The first thing you see is a fence of dark timber with slats concluding in sharp angles, pointing to the sky. In one section, this darkened façade of wood slats extends to seamlessly blend with the exterior […]

It’s a home that is hard to miss in suburban Brunswick East, Australia. The first thing you see is a fence of dark timber with slats concluding in sharp angles, pointing to the sky. In one section, this darkened façade of wood slats extends to seamlessly blend with the exterior façade of the home and culminates in a deliberately uneven edge on the roof deck rather than a hard horizontal line. It’s like looking at the silhouette of a cityscape against the setting sun. 



The wooden slats from the exterior façade form an uneven edge and provide privacy along with an unusual visual element evocative of a cityscape | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The wooden slats from the exterior façade form an uneven edge and provide privacy along with an unusual visual element evocative of a cityscape Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


Bought by architect couple Asha Nicholas and Chris Stanley of Splinter Society, a Melbourne-based architecture and interior design studio, when they were in their mid-20s, the home started out as a humble worker’s cottage. In a carefully composed evolution that lasted over fifteen years, they painstakingly transformed it into a clean-lined home for a growing family. Emphasising carefully crafted contrasts, the home harmoniously blends the charm of the original cottage with hand-crafted qualities of the new elements to take full advantage of the corner site.



 With a basic design framework in mind, the gradual and phased transformation allowed the couple to play around with a host of design ideas | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
With a basic design framework in mind, the gradual and phased transformation allowed the couple to play around with a host of design ideas Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


One Sep at a Time

With a basic design framework in mind, the gradual and phased transformation allowed the couple to play around with a host of design ideas and to work with a richly textured palette of materials – most of them recyclable. As they were completely involved in every step of the evolution – one that took place over their 20s and 30s – they could apply different experimental techniques and interior design elements.



The home features a material palette of sustainable rough-sawn timbers, textured plasters, formed concrete and rough-cut stone| Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The home features a material palette of sustainable rough-sawn timbers, textured plasters, formed concrete and rough-cut stone Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


The home features a material palette the studio regularly uses in their other projects as well including sustainable rough-sawn timbers, textured plasters, formed concrete and rough-cut stone. While retaining some of the historical elements of the original design, the unique floor plan allows for innovative spaces filled with natural light flooding in through folded planes with vertical windows.



The studio enjoys introducing dark, textured palettes into the design while placing emphasis on the way natural and artificial light plays with the palette | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The studio enjoys introducing dark, textured palettes into the design while placing emphasis on the way natural and artificial light plays with the palette Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


As seen in their other work, the studio enjoys introducing dark, textured palettes into the design while placing emphasis on the way natural and artificial light plays with the palette to bring it alive. “The textures pair with artificial and natural light, designed to wash the surfaces to produce dynamic effects throughout the day,” the studio explains.



The new contemporary and experimental additions in black are beautifully set against the white elements of the original cottage | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The new contemporary and experimental additions in black are beautifully set against the white elements of the original cottage Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


Of Black and White

Describing the design transformation, it continued, “the original white cottage was first extruded to extend the pitched roof volume to run from the front to back of the site behind the original façade.” The gable roof element extends past the main house to form a planted pergola in the backyard. The extension allows the ground floor to house the living and dining areas, kitchen, one bedroom, utility alcoves and the main entrance with an elevated exterior deck. By removing the ceilings and exposing the white rafters, the studio created expansive vertical spaces in white. These large white spaces have then been intersected with contrasting black forms.



The entry hall bisects the original home and leads to the new addition with double-height ceilings | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The entry hall bisects the original home and leads to the new addition with double-height ceilings Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


“The dialogue between existing white structures and new black elements is emphasised by a vertical repetition across the project. It ‘hosts’ a number of new black volumes and articulated programs, added over time. These finely detailed black features express externally and create unique space forming intersections cutting through the interiors. The asymmetrical material application produces a softer edge along the new roofline, fencing and at various aspects throughout the interior,” said the studio.



The open kitchen features the original beams and gabled ceiling in white contrasted by a material palette of black | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The open kitchen features the original beams and gabled ceiling in white contrasted by a material palette of black Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


The New to the Old

While holding on to some aspects of the original cottage form and the gabled roofline, the new vertical elements create a striking contrast. The entry hall bisects the original home and leads to the new addition with double-height ceilings. The main entrance leads down a hallway, with a one bedroom to the left, to an open kitchen featuring the original beams and gabled ceiling in white contrasted by a material palette of black.



The open-plan dining and living areas are illuminated by a glass-covered ‘void’ created where the cottage meets the new extension | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The open-plan dining and living areas are illuminated by a glass-covered ‘void’ created where the cottage meets the new extension Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


“Drawing on influences from travel, the living spaces are specifically designed to ‘host’ hospitality and entertaining. The large kitchen has a distinct restaurant aesthetic including reflective surfaces, a stone benchtop and a stylish illuminated bar,” the studio explained. The kitchen leads to the open-plan dining and living areas illuminated by a glass covered ‘void’ created where the cottage meets the new extension. The living area then opens into the wooden pergola and garden.



The sunken bath and the bathroom were designed to enjoy the adjacent greenery through open doors | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The sunken bath and the bathroom were designed to enjoy the adjacent greenery through open doors Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


“The primary bathroom on the ground floor has a unique soaker bath, recessed into the floor and surrounded by indoor and outdoor gardens,” it continues. The sunken bath and the bathroom were designed to enjoy the adjacent greenery through open doors with extended views yet maintain privacy.



The new vertical elements continue to the first floor to form an upper-level mezzanine with a loft-style master ensuite | Host House | Splinter Society | STIRworld
The new vertical elements continue to the first floor to form an upper-level mezzanine with a loft-style master ensuite Image: Sharyn Cairns | Courtesy Splinter Society


The new vertical elements continue to the first floor to form an upper-level mezzanine with a loft-style master ensuite and an additional bedroom. This Is topped by a rooftop deck and bathtub. The wooden slats of the exterior façade design form an uneven edge and provide privacy along with an unusual visual element. The new contemporary and experimental additions in black are beautifully set against the white elements of the original cottage, creating this wonderful contrast of old and new residential architecture.

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