Mid-century remodel

Taking on the renovation of an architect’s own home may add to the pressure of a build, but for Kleev Homes in Victoria this is all in a day’s work.

Photos courtesy Michael Kai


Laura Valic

In the scenic beachside suburb of Sandringham, Melbourne, a simple 1960s bungalow has been transformed into an intriguing family home reminiscent of the mid-century modernist architecture famous to California’s Palm Springs. 

These Hollywood playground homes, mostly built between 1940 and 1970, were designed to link with the natural environment – but also tolerate it – often blending into the mountainous desert landscape and incorporating hardy materials such as steel, stone and wood. Large, moveable glass panels, now second nature to today’s homes, facilitated a fusion of indoor and outdoor living, inspired by the balmy climate and the holidaying lifestyles of the homeowners. 


A number of these traits can be seen throughout the ‘Butterfly House’, a renovation/addition project years in the making for architect Simon Perkins and his family. Grey blockwork carries from the exterior indoors, warmed by American Oak floors and joinery, while bold colour blocking and hints of black steel serves to counterbalance the timber. 

James Kleverlaan, owner of Kleev Homes, who directed the construction of the single-storey home, says it has a relaxed and comfortable vibe as soon as you step inside. ‘It’s not a huge house but it feels really open and light, with the highlight windows and the butterfly roof,’ he says. ‘The timber ceiling looks amazing when you walk in.’

Simon, a director of architecture practice Pleysier Perkins, effectively doubled the footprint of the house with his plans for the extension. Notably, he mirrored the existing skillion roof over the addition to create a butterfly. Skillfully clad oak-lined ceilings add to its drama, under which the kitchen, dining and sunken lounge room now exist. 

James says that the build ran smoothly with great collaboration between all involved, ‘which is the aim for all of our high-end residential projects the business completes each year’. But one main challenge was to ensure the ceiling heights at the rear of the house married up to the front so there was a smooth transition between old and new.

‘The difficult part of the job was all the detailing in the timber-clad ceiling, and the structural steel within that,’ he says. ‘It’s a credit to the foreman and carpenters onsite because it’s beautiful [workmanship].’

Grey blockwork carries from the exterior indoors
The difficult part was all the detailing in the timber-clad ceiling

While not ostentatious, this home is all about the fine details, which when combined, dress to impress. From the little shadow lines and external stepped 20mm blockwork to the window seats or the peppered terrazzo tiles in the master ensuite, the balance of materials and the quality of finish generates some serious wow factor. 

Given its coastal location in Victoria, which experiences weather extremes in summer and winter, hydronic underfloor heating and energy-efficient windows were installed. The abundance of glass filters in natural light and helps to provide a connection to pockets of garden and the backyard pool, with the glazing ensuring ‘a nice ambient temperature’ is maintained. 

The home’s mid-century origins pop up in the steel pergolas, exposed and articulated over the poolside deck off the rear rumpus, as well as over a north-facing courtyard at the front of the house. Sliding glass doors from the dining room open onto this garden enclosure, a relaxing spot to entertain that is well separated from the teenager’s retreat at the back.

Steel is seen again internally in a vertical black structural column that helps to prop up the roof to the side of the kitchen. Off this, a dividing wall in muted emerald adds a measure of privacy for the meals preparation space from the entryway, its striking hue contrasting against the dark cabinetry. 

James says when you come through the front door, the kitchen sits to the left of the dining area behind this wall, a seemingly modest space, with more than meets the eye. ‘It’s almost like a galley, you can walk right through it down to the back area of the house,’ he explains. ‘There’s another butler’s kitchen, with the fridge, more bench and cupboard space, but it’s all hidden away.’

The home is reminiscent of the mid-century modernist architecture famous to California's Palm Springs
Peppered terrazzo tiles

After an 11-month build process, the successful completion of the project came down to expertise and collaboration; a creative designer and a skilled building team to execute the vision. With Simon living around the corner during the build process this meant any issues could be quickly resolved onsite; doubly advantageous when the client was also the architect.

‘You could just make a phone call or do a quick sketch on the wall showing an option [to approve],’ James says. ‘We didn’t have to go through the process of issuing a full set of drawings for the client. It saved everyone time and money.’ 

For Kleev Homes, which works primarily on negotiated contracts with a dozen or so architects in and around Melbourne, it has found a niche where the business excels. Though the rapport between James and the directors at Pleysier Perkins is a little more special than most.

‘We’ve had a long relationship, for more than 20 years, and always have one or two jobs going for them,’ James says. ‘We finished this house and then completed Ramon Pleysier’s home – another ‘60s renovation that looks fantastic. 

‘We’ve completed six other architects’ own residences too; it’s a good selling point to a client when an architect says “I used him on my house”.’

Fittingly, Pleysier Perkins is currently working on plans for James’ own family home, situated on 50 acres just out of Melbourne, which he hopes to start moving on over the next 12 months. Right now though, he’s focused on the business and the pipeline of work in this current economic climate. But he says it’s nice to be reminded on a job well done. 

‘You just try to get a project over the line, making sure the clients are happy, and it’s not until you can sit back and relax that you realise how nice a job everyone’s done. [This one] is something to be proud of,’ James says. 

‘There’s a lot involved in building, and it’s definitely a team effort with the architects, the clients and the trades.’ 

American Oak ceilings

Butterfly House at a glance 

Builder: Kleev Homes

Architect: Simon Perkins, Pleysier Perkins

Landscape design: Matt Walsham

Location: Melbourne


  • Roofing: Colorbond matte finish
  • Ceiling: American Oak, Everist Timber
  • Masonry: Adbri masonry
  • Windows: Windows by Design
  • Flooring: American Oak, Everist Timber; Signorino Tiles
  • Kitchen joinery: Cabinet & Furniture Shop
  • Kitchen benchtop: Saboath honed finish, Parthenon Marble
  • Lighting: supplied by Lights & Tracks
  • Heating and cooling: Mod Cons.

Not an HIA member yet? By joining Australia’s largest national association for the residential building industry, you’ll get access to a range of member benefits, as well as industry products and business services designed to help you manage, operate and grow.

Related Articles

Hats off

Inspired by the broad brim of an Akubra Hat, this sustainable property on a NSW cattle farm was designed to capture the surrounding rural vista and exist self-sufficiently within its landscape.

Coastal cool

Combining the popular Hampton style with the American farmhouse, this striking property by Custom Coast Homes oozes sophistication and charm, and has made a strong impression in its NSW seaside suburb.

Burnished beauty

With its curved facade and copper cladding, this home has quickly become one of the more striking builds in the Gold Coast region.

Bungalow bliss

A thoughtfully-rendered remodel and extension updates this home for twentieth century beachside living, while gently respecting it’s architectural history.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers