A Small-Footprint Northcote Extension That Inspires Connection

Standing in the backyard of this inner-city extension, you’d never guess that you’re in the heart of Northcote, with High Street just a gentle stone's throw away.


Bri Horne

Well, the occasional honk-of-the-horn might suggest such a thing, but, with the bees and the butterflies buzzing and fluttering around the luscious garden, feeling connected to nature comes with a sense of ease at Merri Extension.

For the owners, who work in impact investing and renewable energy, extending their late 1800’s heritage townhouse for their growing kids was always going to be done in a way that aligned with their values. Enter: The Sociable Weaver, a B Corporation and purpose-driven design and build company, out to create positive change in the built environment, by bringing to life sustainable, healthy, and beautiful homes that inspire connection to self, to nature, and to community.

Blending in to the surrounding nature, this small-footprint extension manages to strike the balance of remaining grounded, while standing tall with grandeur – its exterior beauty there to be enjoyed from the backyard while grabbing herbs from the garden, or gathering with friends over some woodfired pizzas. Previously owned by a local botanist, the landscaping is an oasis of unique and indigenous flora. And making the most of this carefully curated and inspired garden, and bringing the outside in, was a clear intention of this design by Michael Nowlan of The Sociable Weaver.

Summed up wonderfully by Michael,

‘The intention of this design really comesdown to connection. Connecting the existing with the new; connecting the outdoor with the indoor; and at the very core, fostering a deeper connection between the inhabitants and nature, all the while, creating zones for our inhabitants to create more meaningful connections with themselves and each other.’

Merri Extension was designed to accommodate three growing kids, but the owners were committed to extending in away that they were only adding what they needed. Totalling just under 105m2,with the ground floor only 50m2, the small-footprint extension, abundant with natural light, treads extremely lightly. The three bedrooms are upstairs, and with the stunning elongated window that wraps around the northern facade, it’s as though the kids are living among the treetops. Downstairs, you’ll find one bathroom and one living area that features an incredible industrial fireplace as the focal point that sits side by side with the concrete hearth. Doubling as a daybed, the hearth connects to the external decking, creating a clever junction between the existing home, the extension, and the outdoor space.

With the intention of creating separate zones for the adults and for the kids, the design achieves this beautifully, while redefining what it looks like for the family to connect and be together. The shared spaces have been expanded and centralised, supporting the seamless flow from the existing to the new, and increasing the functionality of the spaces to gather. Through opening these spaces up to the outdoors, a sense of versatility presents itself. The space there to hold an evening of laughter and connection on the deck on a balmy night, or a cosy afternoon of rest and reflection on the daybed, looking out to the rustling eucalypts.

From passive solar design principles and solar PV, to water tanks, and clever storage solutions for the family’s bicycles, Merri Extension allows the family to tread lightly. The natural materials are not only planet friendly, they have been thoughtfully considered as a nod to the surrounding landscape.

The fact that we as humans are not separate to nature, we are nature, is a truth held closely by The Sociable Weaver. This is beautifully reflected in the homes they bring to life – and this custom design and build is no exception. At every turn, Merri Extension holds each inhabitant, and the family as a collective, to live a meaningful, connected, and inspired life.

Merri Extension lays on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri-Willam clan. We’d like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri-Willam people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Custodians of this land. We acknowledge their ancient and continuing connection to land, waters and culture, and we pay our deepest respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

The name Merri Extension is a nod to the Merri Creek, a significant and important creek that flows about 60km from Australia's Great Dividing Range through Melbourne’s northern suburbs to the Yarra River. “Merri Merri”, meaning “very rocky”, comes from the Wurundjeri-Willam clan.

The above information came from the Merri Creek Management Committee website, which was taken from the book ‘People of the Merri Merri, the Wurundjeri in Colonial Days’, by Isabel Ellender and Peter Christiansen, published by the Merri Creek Management Committee.

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