A respectful touch shows that some 1950s attitudes are still relevant.
Looking over the renovated details in the Beaumaris family home of Koos de Keijzer, principal of one of Melbourne's busiest and most diverse architectural practices, dKO Architecture, is an underwhelming experience - but in a good way.
Where you would reasonably expect the boss of a design business that works on big apartment buildings, commercial projects and expensive private houses in Australasia and Asia to fully indulge in the latest and most lavish trends and technology, here de Keijzer is lovingly admiring the rather daggy faux sandstone sheeting that clads the equally anachronistic feature of his backyard, the cabana at the end of the pool. ''I like that Palm Springs sort of suggestion,'' he muses.
In the upstairs main bedroom of the two-level and now four-bedroom house set up on a sand dune in middle Beaumaris, de Keijzer is admiring the mirrored arched doorways into the remodelled en suite. Decidedly dated are these features. Yet the architect says: ''Again, I like those quirky references. They are what make the house unique.''
Designed by Russian emigre architect Anatol Kagan in 1959 as a part of the modernist housing stock that proliferated in what was then a new suburb, the house had the clean lines and big wood-framed picture windows characteristic of modernism.
Unusually, it also had crazy paving and a pebble feature in the entry foyer, a powerfully geometric bookcase screen in the stairway and, on the living floor upstairs, de Keijzer marvels, ''a concrete floor, which means the house is fairly quiet''.
''Fundamentally, it had the spirit and bones and casual atmosphere of the era.'' On the downside, it had such blasting western sun exposure in the main room that the outside blinds were permanently down."
"And, in terms of layout and in consideration of a rising teenage family, there were not enough bedrooms or practical generational zoning. One shared bathroom was not enough, and with some odd internal wall placements in the living room ''it was all quite contorted''.
Though a tad too small overall, the house did have a sparklingly 21st-century kitchen of shiny white cupboards, stone benchtops and a flashy splashback. This is all the stuff the architect asked his in-house interior design colleague, Brett Duke, to remodel or remove.
Out went the modern kitchen, some of the dividing walls in the living area and the back and side borders of the house. Duke added a very modest 32 square metres to the house - ''not much at all'' - to accommodate three teenage rooms, a new bathroom and a retreat lounge downstairs on the pool deck.
Upstairs, he changed a small bedroom into an open study and gave the parents a larger room and more privacy.
With new bluestone tiling and a Japanese-style bath, the family bathroom became the en suite to the main bedroom - albeit with that arched doorway. ''We consolidated it and made it all more logical,'' Duke says.
Less logical to the layman, the swank kitchen was replaced by a neat but otherwise unremarkable sequence of Hoop-pine plywood joinery, which looks unprepossessingly mid-century in its plain serviceability. ''In the style of this house,'' Duke says, ''you wouldn't want to come into a super-slick kitchen.''
The plywood story was part of keeping with the spirit of the house. Real retro kitchens, he says, ''were non-statement. But that fits with the house.''
Though the deftness of the design tweaks shows up in the smartness of the refreshed feature screening, mimicked on the new terrace, and in the low line of west-facing windows inset in dark-stained cypress pine wall, what is new barely shows up against the original. ''We weren't doing slickness,'' Duke says. ''We were refreshing it and keeping it in context.''
The architect owner of this almost indivisible renovation and addition is unapologetic that it is so modest for a man of his station. ''If you get the space right,'' de Keijzer says, ''it is not about size, it is about proportion and functional layout that feels nice."
"Fifties architecture was really nice. The original work on this house got so much right. So it was really just an exercise of playing off that.''
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