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How to transform a regular living room into an actual playroom
The eco-friendly restyling of a Melbourne villa turns the living into a clever toy box for the owner’s toddler
Mills House, Melbourne. The floor of the living area is a giant, 450 millimeters deep toy box hosting a play area and extra seats for the guests
Chests and trunks, the unavoidable paraphernalia of a children’s room, are truly a thing of the past at Mills House, a beautiful, compact Melbourne villa recently renovated by Australian Austin Maynard Architects. In order to keep disorder at bay, the floor of the living has been transformed into a huge toy-box and play area. The owner of the house, a senior executive with two children and a newborn son, asked the studio to realize a restyling that might enable her to easily manage the chaos that inevitably comes with babies. They indulged her with a unique project, designed for kids as well as for grown-ups.
Firstly, the original bungalow has been remodeled and enlarged by adding a two-storey extension hosting two bedrooms and a bathroom with bespoke bathtub (on the first floor) and a living area with open-space kitchen, which replaces the former corridor, a dining area and a living room (on the ground floor). Of the previous home remain the original facade and two front rooms, one of which has been modified to incorporate a studio and a bathroom. The villa’s two souls – the original structure and the new extension – are separated by a large lightwell. The entire building covers an area of slightly more than 200 square meters.
The heart of the project, though, is the living area. Australian traditional bungalows are usually barely 6 meters wide. Instead of lining the walls with bulky cupboards, Austin Maynard studio converted the floors into a giant toy-box. The center of the playground is a 450 millimeters deep storage area – this measure corresponding to height of an average seat. It is not by chance, then, that the spot nearest to the kitchen also hosts a sofa. This apparently empty space – a sort of “magic hole” in the living room’s center – makes for a perfect play area that, together with a set of ingenious wooden cubes that reveal a range of colorful tunnels once their lids are removed, conveniently hides all kinds of toys, from dolls to miniature cars.
That is not all, though. Innovations include other devices that lend Mills House its peculiarly brilliant character. In order to deal with the north-west orientation of the building, the architects have covered the rear façade with a special structure made of perforated metal, a sort of architectural lace work that reflects most of the unwanted sunlight in summer, lending the villa an awesome “wow effect” at night. Sustainability is at the core of the Mills House project. Its remarkably eco-friendly quality is visible in the maximization of natural ventilation, in the double-glazed windows as well as in the solar panels on the roof and in the employment of a large water tank at the center of the lightwell in order to capture rainwater, which will be reused to flush toilets and water the garden.
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