Bi-Level Outdoor Space: Kew House by Nic Owen Architects, Melbourne

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A raised back yard can sometimes prove problematic for homeowners; sloping surfaces or abrupt height differences can make remodeling or renovation a bit tricky. With this existing Kew house, Melbourne firm Nic Owen Architects solved the issue by playing up and emphasizing the differences in elevation between the main house and the yard — thus creating a whole new “level” of usable space that was turned into fun outdoor living areas. The distinctive architectural frame slants upward, a counterbalance for the topography; it provides a graceful roofline to the addition, creates a sheltered alcove for raised planters, and opens up interior spaces to more light through tall panes of glass and tiny angular windows at its very top. A broad new deck holds an al fresco eating area — complete with wood picnic-style table and benches — and that’s just the beginning of the indoor/outdoor living options here.

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Sliding glass doors expand the living space and make a passage clear through from one side of the yard to the other; a stairway at one side leads up to the main grassy area of lawn and play space. Dark fencing, topped with greenery, provides privacy for the bath and a great view from the open-air kitchen; the new space includes a long island, complete with sink, prep space, and yellow stools for extra seating. Closing the sliders keeps the living room cozy in cooler weather — as does the tall fireplace — while not sacrificing anything in terms of light. Opening up an interior as well as creating a multi-use exterior: it’s the genius of good design at the Kew House by Nic Owen.

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