In one of its latest eco-conscious retrofits, Australian architecture firm Green Sheep Collective has given a single-fronted timber Victorian cottage a sustainable transformation in inner Melbourne. The renovation and expansion project combined recycled and eco-certified materials with low-tech, passive solar principles to reduce the carbon footprint of the home while improving livability. Filled with light and contemporary flourishes, the updated house — named Magnolia Soul — has also been designed to embrace the outdoors.

brick and timber home with large wood deck

Commissioned by a young family with pets, Magnolia Soul was designed with an emphasis on spacious indoor-outdoor living as well as healthy and eco-friendly materials. During the renovation, the architects preserved a mature magnolia tree — a stunning Magnolia x soulangeana — and turned it into a main focal point. In addition to the tree, the existing property conditions also informed the building’s siting, mass and volume, which were all optimized to follow passive solar principles. Moreover, the building footprint is minimized in favor of maximizing the garden area.

living area with exposed brick wall, large glass windows and tan sofa

On the left, kitchen with wood island. On the right, wood deck leading to dining area through large glass door

“A unique folding roof form envelopes and cradles robust living spaces, whose lowered floor level is embraced by adjacent decking,” the architects explained, having created a flexible open-plan interior layout with strong sight lines to the outdoors. “Views of the magnolia tree are intentionally framed by the roof structure, through a high-angled window and bay window seat. The generous and versatile window seat creates a lovely place to relax, read a book, admire the flowering magnolia or sit on the edge of the garden. High angular ceilings offer views of the magnolia, allow dappled light to penetrate deep into the residence and provide stack effect ventilation.”

Related: Smart Home targets affordability and eco-friendly design in Australia

glass door open to wooden kitchen island

dog lying in gray dog bed beside a window

The home is oriented for optimal thermal comfort: north-facing windows draw in natural heat for winter, while deep eaves and strategically placed windows for cross ventilation combat unwanted summer heat gain. Low-E double glazing and effective insulation also accommodate a temperate climate. Recycled, low-emission and ethnically procured materials were used wherever possible. For added resource savings, the home is equipped with a rainwater tank that reuses roof runoff for the laundry and toilets.

+ Green Sheep Collective

Photography by Emma Cross via Green Sheep Collective