A Yarraville Family House That Says ‘The More The Merrier’

Gus and Storrm Balbontin and their three children are a ‘busy, active, noisy, inclusive family,’ and they needed a house that reflected that.

Their Yarraville home was originally a 1940s three-bedroom, one-bathroom weatherboard cottage that required more space and outdoor connections to suit their social lifestyle.

The Melbourne home is frequently used as a meeting point for friends from their children’s nearby school, and hosts regular overnight guests.

Gus and Storrm engaged Kate Vernon Architects who designed the home to a very specific set of requirements. Every scenario was considered, from how to navigate muddy feet when arriving home from kids’ sport, to the best way to access pasta making equipment when cooking.

Most importantly, the home needed to better support Gus and Storrm’s growing family, their love of cooking, their ability to host, and provide space to work from home.

‘Cooking is central to our family and fire in particular is central to Gus’ [Argentinian] culture. So we opened up the home entirely connecting the fire (cooking/gathering) with the street (the community),’ says Gus.

The original home had a special charm and ‘vibe’ that the Balbontin family didn’t want to lose in renovations, so the facade, roof, and front rooms were all retained.

Previous rear additions were demolished to make way for the new extension that equipped the house with an additional bedroom, bathroom, powder room, office, and two living spaces.

These two living spaces are physically separated but visually connected via the rear outdoor courtyard with a large brick fireplace that both rooms face.

‘Through the big sliding doors in the kitchen we can see across the courtyard to the big back room where the kids hang out, so there is a lovely sense of connectedness even though we are each going about things individually,’ says Gus.

‘We can glimpse our daughter practising the piano, or our youngest getting over excited playing PlayStation.’

The brick outdoor fireplace is central to the design of the entire house, encouraging the family and their guests to gather and linger in what is essentially the home’s third living area.

‘It is a lovely sight at night to see the glow of the fire from inside — even better when you welcome someone through the front door and the fire is on out the back. It is so welcoming and warm,’ Gus said.

From the paved outdoor area, the backyard spills over to a lush sanctuary down the side of the home designed by Peachy Green. A ‘secret’ cedar spa shrouded in greenery is one of the family’s favourite features, receiving plenty of use over Covid lockdowns and when the children’s friends sleep over.

‘They take over that back room and the courtyard, spending the night in the hot tub and sitting around the fire with their mates toasting marshmallows and listening to music,’ says Gus.

The indoor spaces are just as hardworking, providing multiple spaces to the family to operate independently, while remaining in close proximity.

‘A common scene is a couple of the kids gathered around the big island bench getting some homework done while dinner is cooking, another kid will be sprawled out on the built in bench street chatting about their day, and Gus is tucked away in the office adjoining the kitchen getting some work done.’

The interiors are timeless and designed with robust materials ‘We wanted lots of natural light, some drama and interest from our architecture but to maintain a relaxed, casual vibe,’ says Gus.

A neutral palette of oak timber and Dulux Vivid White paint on the walls and ceiling provides the flexibility and the ability to change and personalise areas over time.

Dusty blue tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms offer a playful touch that references both Storrm’s beachy NSW North Coast upbringing and Gus’ Argentine background.

Post-renovation, the home is a natural meeting place for the family’s Yarraville community.

‘There is not one space in the house that doesn’t get used as it was intended,’ says Gus. It is incredibly functional and completely complements and enhances our lifestyle.’

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