Designed by Breathe Architecture, the “Into the Woods” house takes the shape of three fallen trees, its form following its function and design leaving no wasted space.
The house is located on a tree-laden 1,200 square metre sloping site in the northeastern Melbourne suburb of Etham. The design was inspired by the shape of three fallen trees and the home's functions are divided among each of the ‘trees’ or levels. The lower levels feature the living areas and the upper, bedrooms and studios. The levels are connected by a central circulation spine.
''Our brief was to create a warm and welcoming environment, almost cocoon-like. The design suggests three fallen trees with the trunks hollowed out,'' said architect Jeremy McLeod from Breathe Architecture.
The main entrance is through a timber ramp that goes from the street to the front door. It was created primarily because one of the owners' friends is in a wheelchair and gives the house a particular charm.
Inside the house, functions are divided between work and home so that people visiting the studios do not have to walk through the home. The upper level includes two bedrooms, two studios and a shared bathroom, while in the lowest wing there are the kitchen and living and dining areas which are connected to the front and back gardens.
The house was designed with a thermal mass core, creating spaces and openings designed to allow solar light and provide natural ventilation. Moreover, there is a low-tech solar boosted hydronic heating system which is crucial in ensuring the project is sustainable.
The system consists of a continuous layer of 75-millimetre XPS insulation with hydronic coils running below the floors. This allows the heat load to be distributed evenly throughout the slab, quickly sharing the load of radiating warmth or cold all around the house.
Wood was used to build the majority of the house. Walls and ceilings were built with plywood while floors were made of polished concrete to provide thermal mass. Recycled timber was used in some elements such as the kitchen’s island bench, which was made from offcuts of recycled timber and embedded with steel.
The architects explained they wanted to maintain the rawness of each material.
''We've left the materials in their found state,'' they said. ''If some of the timber happened to be marked or spattered with paint, it added to the patina of the home.''
As the intention was to use mainly raw, natural, local and low embodied energy products such as local timber inside the house, no plasterboard, carpet, floor tiles, aluminium or chrome were used. Recycled hardwood floorboards were used in the joinery and the floor was constructed with recycled messmate floorboards, finished with zero VOC Lobasol wax.
The project was recently recognised, being highly commended for the 2013 IDEA awards in the Single Residential category.