Grand Designs Australia: Back In Black

July 7, 2015

This modern home design revolves around the principles of sustainability, proving style and environmentally friendly building go hand in hand

House: Port Melbourne Urban Green
Location: Port Melbourne, Victoria

Downsizing from a large Victorian-era property, Dr Ian Kronborg and his wife Dr Anne Howard sought to create a home that was ecologically sound and equally as flexible when it comes to space.

The duo wasted no time in clearing the land — a rat-infested fisherman’s hut that had occupied the space for more than 45 years — and beginning work on their creation, a standout home in the suburb of Port Melbourne.


A unique design feature of the space is the water tanks that hug two sides of the home. “We were keen to have solar power and modern water management,” says Ian.

“The actual appearance of the structure was not that important, while the function, both ecologically and socially, was vital.” In this case, the gargantuan black water tanks add to the allure of the home, branding it not only sustainable, but exclusive in its aesthetic.

“We were impressed by the architect’s idea of black square water tanks, which give the house the impression of being an Italianate villa,” says Ian.


With a number of family members coming and going, producing a space that was flexible and practical was high on the couple’s agenda.

“The property needed to serve a number of functions,” says Ian. “We have adult children who have moved out and moved back at different times. We enjoy entertaining and needed spaces which could cope with this, but at the same time, we needed our own privacy.”


Incorporating organic elements into the design of the house was a welcome relief for the family, who had lived in an apartment for the past two years.

“It was important for us to have access to greenery. We love the roof garden and peaceful living room with adjacent herb garden,” says Ian.

There are two decking areas lined with bright green plants, which contrast with the dark, jet black materials utilised outside, producing a striking result. “In the long run, hopefully lots of greenery grows over the house,” says Ian.


Like all projects, this Port Melbourne home was dealt its cards when it came to on-site challenges. “After we purchased the block, the soil survey showed it was on the original beach, and we were unable to put in the underground car park and cellar we planned,” says Ian.

But the inconvenience of not being able to go underground for water storage provided the encouragement to be “innovative in the use of water tanks”.

The couple were also faced with overpriced quotes, issues with moving powerlines and a builder who went broke — all obstacles that were overcome with persistence and a good architect.


Despite moving into a smaller property, this home is still relatively large, boasting six main rooms, three bathrooms, a granny flat with bedroom/living room, two studies, a lift, cellar, double-car garage and a music room that is currently serving as a nursery for Ian’s son’s newborn baby.

“As our family tends to come and go, it had to be a little larger than we absolutely needed to cope with peak loads,” admits Ian. “At the same time, we wanted to decrease the impact of our living style with an ecologically sound house.”


With a firm focus on the materials of the home, Ian and Anne have achieved their vision of producing a modern house “with the feeling of open space and access to green growing areas.

We preferred recycled materials where possible, but we also had a strong emphasis on low-maintenance materials which would age gracefully. We knew a large amount would have to be steel and plastic, and we were keen to have a significant amount of wood present to help with the organic feel,” reveals Ian.

With timber featuring strongly throughout the home in the form of staircases, floorboards and furniture, a slightly industrial atmosphere is generated along with the greenery and black accents around the home.

A standout bedroom filled with natural light and a conjoined open bathroom is a design feature of the house.

Providing a cityscape view and freestanding egg-shaped bath, this oasis is the ideal place to relax and unwind.

Pops of colour are introduced through accessories such as canary yellow towels and a red-striped bedspread — pieces that inject excitement into the space.


With an eco-friendly heart safely encased within a cutting-edge black exterior, this home is the ideal vessel for a family who seeks flexibility and sustainability all in one.


Expert advice: Tie back colours through accessories, such as this blue rug which intertwines with the storage space.


We love: A freestanding circular bath. This tub modernises the room and is the perfect centrepiece of the space.


Editor’s note: Adding herbs and luscious green plants on a decking area is just as good as having a backyard. All homes benefit from an organic element and plants instantly breathe new life into high-rise living.

Written by Annabelle Cloros
Photography by Rhiannon Slatter
Originally from Grand Designs Australia magazine, Volume 4 Issue 3

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