“Not many houses actually foster a family’s growth and help them to live better in an enduring way, but Keep House does. Designing it was not just about inhabiting the site, but really looking at how it connects to the neighbourhood and the adjacent parkland and bringing them into the interior.” —Simon Knott, Principal BKK Architects
Keep House is where Matt and Dana live, work from home, and raise their two teenagers. Their corner block is a wedge shape, its rounded edge facing a park across the street, its back garden culminating in a triangle. The block is elevated from the street, placing it on view all along its extensive street frontage and from the park.
Our clients needed a house that would connect the parkland and garden to the family, yet guard their privacy on the inherently visible site.
For Matt and Dana, Keep House is forever. It’s theirs to keep, and it keeps them cocooned and safe. They say your home is your castle, and we often discussed ideas of the mediaeval castle keep: the tower within a castle compound fortified as a refuge in case enemies penetrate the rest of the castle. Similarly, Keep House shields the home’s privacy from the publicness of its frontage.
After experimenting with many arrangements for fitting the house onto the site, we settled on an elongated shape bent into a squared-off C, essentially forming three wings. It’s set back from the curved frontage and pressed against the site’s diagonal boundaries, leaving a small, wind-sheltered triangular garden at the back. The C-shaped house folds around a native garden courtyard so the rooms have views into the garden then through to the rooms opposite. Verandas line the courtyard, blurring the transition between garden and interior.
The house’s outer wall is concrete-clad blockwork: a solid defence between home and public world. The concrete chimney, narrowing to a wedge at the top, is a crucial detail, bringing a new scale and interest to the street-facing elevations. It’s a pivot point for the home, firmly marking place.
The main living space and kitchen occupy the front wing and open onto a street-facing deck on one side and the native garden on the other. Adjacent is the study, where a small level change helps psychologically separate work from home.
Next is a circulation zone with a staircase. This separates the front wing from the teenagers’ wing, which has a bathroom plus two bedrooms with a media/play space in between. The glazed walls of the media space bifold away so the back triangular garden on one side meets the native garden courtyard on the other. It’s one of several opportunities to merge house and garden spaces into mingle zones for a household that likes parties and entertaining.
Upstairs is the main bedroom/retreat. The chimney provides an anchor point for the generous private deck, which overlooks the park.
There is a transition of privateness across the varied landscape zones: the visible lawn and veggie patch out the front, the native garden courtyard, the back triangle accessed from the media space, which is fenced on all sides.
Keep House shows how architecture can explore shades of privateness between what is totally inner and what is gladly revealed to passers-by. It’s tailored for a family that needs spaces to come together, and spaces to be apart.
Our corner block is exposed by over 200 degrees with parkland surrounds so the wraparound design and elevation gives us both a private central oasis and integrates the parkland into our living. Also, the shape and layout make each room a different experience with its surroundings. The zoning allows us to separate activities in a medium-sized area. It’s a true indoor/outdoor experience – the glass and multiple doors mean the rooms feel bigger than they are. Also, not having a traditional front door means we welcome people straight into the heart of our home, which reflects the way we like to live.
Architects: BKK ARCHITECTS
Photographer: Tom Blachford