• Sun. Aug 1st, 2021

The Secret to This Small Australian Home Is the Built-In Furniture

At only 93 square meters, this Melbourne home is full of clever details that utilize every part of the floor plan. Renovated by Dan Gayfer Design for a retired couple looking to downsize, the two-bedroom home, featuring slotted timber that acts like pieces of a puzzle, is now chic and multifunctional.

“It’s the smallest house we’ve worked on,” Dan says. “The couple had come from a large family house and were used to having a lot of things in their home.” To say this project is an example of smart compromises would be an understatement. “We had to try and pack in everything they wanted into this home while figuring out the things they no longer needed, like a huge family kitchen or walk-in pantry,” he adds.

Located in northern Melbourne, the red brick 1990s-built townhouse once stuck out amid the more common Victorian terrace homes in the neighborhood. Dan updated the facade with framed windows, tile, and a slatted rooftop terrace to match the character of the neighborhood.





© Architectural Digest
BEFORE: Due to heritage limitations, Dan couldn’t change the home’s facade. Instead, he took inspiration from the red brick exterior and brought it inside.



AFTER: In lieu of a dining table with chairs on each side, the dining booth is the ideal fit for a small space.


© Architectural Digest
AFTER: In lieu of a dining table with chairs on each side, the dining booth is the ideal fit for a small space.

When Dan was hired in mid-2018, he found the ground floor’s layout a bit puzzling. “The bathroom and laundry were in the middle of the floor plan,” he says. “It was poorly executed and didn’t respond to the site’s orientation in terms of light.” To maximize the main floor, Dan “turned the floor plan on its head” so guests enter through the dining room, before walking up a few steps to the galley-style kitchen. Timber paneling conceals the pantry, laundry, and a powder bath underneath the stairs. The back room, an intimate living space facing the rear courtyard, has a built-in aubergine sectional to make the most of the best light in the house.

When it came to the design, built-ins were a no-brainer. “The best way to get furniture to fit is to build it in with the exact dimensions you want so you aren’t wasting any space,” he says. Built-ins have become a calling card for the architect, who is continually inspired by modern Japanese architecture and the innovation it showcases in small spaces. In this particular home, the built-ins also add a pop of color.



a kitchen with wooden cabinets in a room: Dan chose the light Silvertop Ash wood for the kitchen. While it is only a moderately durable wood, Dan wasn’t too concerned. “They don’t have kids living in the home so it’s not getting wear and tear,” Dan says.


© Architectural Digest
Dan chose the light Silvertop Ash wood for the kitchen. While it is only a moderately durable wood, Dan wasn’t too concerned. “They don’t have kids living in the home so it’s not getting wear and tear,” Dan says.



a green tiled wall and a sink: The powder bath, a fun way to infuse more color, features a Concrete Nation basin and mint mosaic tile from Academy Tiles.


© Architectural Digest
The powder bath, a fun way to infuse more color, features a Concrete Nation basin and mint mosaic tile from Academy Tiles.

The kitchen, which lacks a main island, has Silvertop Ash flooring—a reasonably priced Australian hardwood—while the joinery is Crown Plantation Oak. The rest of the home has Black Butte wood, which adds visual interest to the ceilings and the carved-out living room. “The window seat in the living room is this pocket of drama and so we wanted a darker timber in there,” Dan adds.



a close up of a glass building: The rooftop was transformed into a bright and airy terrace with a shade structure and built-in bench.


© Architectural Digest
The rooftop was transformed into a bright and airy terrace with a shade structure and built-in bench.

Though the home is two levels, the ground floor received a much more drastic transformation. For the second floor, where the two bedrooms and bathrooms are located, Dan went with new cabinetry and other cosmetic edits. Lastly, the old rooftop was transformed into a terrace with a streamlined shade structure and white built-in bench. “There were some heritage limitations with this property,” he says. “For the shade structure, it had to be subtle enough from the street to get approved.”

Today, the couple are thrilled to be living a simpler life and are close to their adult children who live in nearby suburbs.



a building with graffiti on the side of a window: How cute and convenient is that round dog door?


© Architectural Digest
How cute and convenient is that round dog door?