Up With Down Under
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Northcote is not one of Melbourne's greener enclaves. At least it wasn't until Australian artist-architects Michael Bellemo and Cat Macleod of Bellemo & Cat built their new family home and office amid the industrial suburb's brick warehouses, sheds, and garages. "One of our neighbor friends thought Northcote needed some greenery," Macleod says. "So we delivered it." The translucent corrugated fiberglass wrapping three sides of the quirky little house is printed with twisting ribbons of light and dark green.
The facade's green swirls are visible inside, too—Bellemo calls it a "graphic garden, our urban jungle." They animate the walls, producing the sensation of living and working behind a giant vine-covered trellis. However, the pattern's actual inspiration is not nature but a basket-weave wooden sculpture that was itself inspired by the frame of the couple's unfinished beach house. (The interdisciplinary duo create large public artwork in addition to running their five-person firm.)
To fabricate the Northcote facade, the architects started by photographing the sculpture. Then they digitized the image and had the abstracted jumble of lines printed onto the fiberglass. "There was a reasonable degree of difficulty convincing the printer to work with panels of corrugated material up to 13 feet long," Macleod admits.
Opaque plasterboard walls, painted lime green, bring the verdant palette deeper into the 1,800-square-foot low-budget structure. In the kitchen, which shares a lofty open space with the living-dining area, Bellemo and Macleod clad a run of cabinets in high-gloss plastic laminate in a citrus green to match the painted walls. Laminate conceals the fridge as well to reduce as much visual clutter as possible. Though the glass backsplash appears darker, it's actually back-painted the same color as the cabinets.
Appliances and the sink are stainless steel. Gray quartz composite tops the lower cabinets; 2 feet above, a shelf of the material extends the width of the backsplash, displaying art glass out of reach of the couple's two young children. "It's about keeping a bit of glamour while being kid-friendly," Macleod says.
The island is essentially a large rectangular table. It's built from plywood veneered in Australian alpine knotty ash, a woody contrast to the leafy green. Veneered plywood surfaces the floor, too—not only in the public space but also up a split level, in the master bedroom, and down another half level, in the playroom. Off the living-dining area and playroom, there's still more green to be found: Artificial turf covers a pair of staggered balconies.
An undulating yellow slide transports the architects' children between the two levels. Back inside, the staircase connecting the living-dining area and playroom takes on life as a stage for impromptu performances during birthday parties. Fun was a big part of making a home for children, Macleod says: "Our childrens' friends think of it as a big playhouse."