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Changing perceptions

The 2020 HIA Australian Townhouse/Villa of the Year was awarded to Metricon Homes South Australia for this innovative example of spacious design on a small lot.

Photos: Josh Geelen

Author

Annie Reid

It’s hard to believe this project is a townhouse – its proportions feel more like a full-sized home. But that was precisely the point.

With its ‘Edgewater 6.0’, Metricon Homes South Australia turned the traditional townhouse terrace design upside down and was recognised for its creativity with the 2020 HIA Australian Townhouse/Villa of the Year award.

‘This whole project is about changing people’s perceptions of what living in a terrace is all about,’ says Richard Bryant, General Manager at Metricon Homes South Australia.

Essentially, the design does a lot more with less. And by less, that’s a boundary-to-boundary site measuring just 6m x 27.5m accommodating a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom plan. 

‘Most people walk through it and say it feels like a normal detached home,’ Richard says. ‘It doesn’t feel like a terrace, it’s full of light and space instead.’ 

It was with this brief in mind that Metricon began the design process for the executive-style townhouse. ‘Often, a lot of terrace designs are narrow and dark. But this is the opposite, primarily because it has two courtyards.’ 

The main atrium is bordered on three sides by spacious living and dining areas, with fully retractable doors that illuminate the house when slid open.

‘It’s beautiful out there on a nice day, and it provides that extra light and flow through the home.’ 

The second atrium is a clever service courtyard; doubling as a light well for the master bedroom and family bathroom upstairs. 

‘It’s not a poky smaller option,’ Richard explains. ‘It’s actually a lovely big space with a really big window that allows beautiful daylight to filter inside.’

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The showstopper is the polished concrete floors, which flow from the living area out to the courtyard. 
Photo: Josh Geelen
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'The Edgewater 6.0 is about changing people’s perceptions of what living in a terrace is all about’
Photo: Josh Geelen

The living areas of the home capture the sun’s rays perfectly, and there are at least three: a family living area and second living room (or study) downstairs, leisure room upstairs, plus the large courtyard, which can be semi-enclosed.

‘You’ve actually got three or even four living spaces. It’s very unusual for a townhouse to have so much amenity,’ Richard says.

Plus, other big-ticket items are here, including a master ensuite with a double vanity, double shower, walk-in robe and separate toilet. 

But it’s Metricon’s cutting-edge approach to design and material innovation that takes this terrace to the next level. ‘We see our displays as ideas factories, and we really love to use them as an opportunity to present what we can do,’ Richard says.

Not only does Edgewater showcase a confident industrial look but new materials never before displayed. 

The modern facade sets the scene, its stacked feature bricks, timber slats, Colorbond cladding and timber front door adding impressive street presence. Inside, the showstopper is polished concrete floors, which flow from the living area out to the courtyard. 

‘A lot of production builders won’t do it, but it’s a really lovely design feature that captures people’s imaginations,’ Richard says.

The open tread timber staircase is another standout, which includes a modern metal screen balustrade that features excellent workmanship. Both elements create a strong, urban feel, further expressed with rich, dark joinery throughout that provides welcome warmth to the home. 

‘People love the polished concrete and dark timbers, and they love the style of the home in terms of that contemporary look as well,’ Richard says.

One of the main reasons Metricon decided to experiment with design and materials on smaller allotments was that it made economic sense. 

‘You want to be leading-edge but not bleeding-edge,’ Richard explains. ‘You can put more money into the actual home or save some money, and that will secure a more cost-effective solution.’ 

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Each bedroom contains a large window and connection to the outdoors, ensuring they feel light and open.
Photo: Josh Geelen
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‘We see our displays as ideas factories, and we love to use them as an opportunity to present what we can do’
Photo: Josh Geelen

Forgoing a kitchen island bench for an elongated design was one compromise. The loss of width is compensated by extra joinery, which then connects to the adjoining laundry, seamlessly extending both spaces.

A limited block size also means concessions need to be made on space in certain parts of the home, with narrower secondary bedrooms being one of them. However, each contain a large window and connection to the outdoors, ensuring they still feel light and open. ‘You can compensate some of the design challenges with good design.’

As a result, every inch must count, and good designs are made better because they must work twice as hard.

‘Because space is at a premium, we’ve used a lot of the joinery to look beautiful but also to provide storage.’

For example, joinery hides the washing machine and dryer in the European laundry, but transforms into a stylish design element in the living area to add atmosphere. There are other clever design techniques too, including niches, setbacks, mirrors and a wider than standard passage upstairs, so space is never wasted. 

As for construction, the high quality of the project provided fertile training ground for two Metricon apprentices, who were part of the build. ‘We sponsor apprentices where we can as they are the future of the industry,’ Richard says. 

Not unexpectedly, the side and rear boundaries created access difficulties throughout the build because there was less room available for material deliveries and fewer places to store them. Richard says the building crew had to be ‘very organised and structured’ in terms of how they managed the site. 

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The modern facade features stacked feature bricks, timber slats, Colorbond cladding and a beautiful timber door. 
Photo: Josh Geelen
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Forgoing a kitchen island bench for an elongated design was compensated by extra joinery.
Photo: Josh Geelen

Other challenges included the timber staircase and polished concrete floors. The team had to erect scaffolding to stain the staircase to ensure each tread could be treated without needing to physically step on the others, while the floors required creative planning. ‘The concrete is a lovely material but it has zero tolerance, so you have to get it right. We just had to work out different ways to do things.’

And by doing things differently, this project has rewarded Metricon top honours in a national category it’s never won before.

‘We get very excited about winning awards and particularly national awards,’ Richard says. ‘I have a strong involvement with the local HIA here and we really value the work that they do for the industry.’

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Edgewater 6.0 Townhouse at a glance

Builder/designer: Metricon Homes

Award: 2020 HIA Australian Townhouse/Villa of the Year

Partner: Holcim Australia

Location: South Australia

Materials

  • Roofing: Colorbond roof and cladding
  • Walls: Austral bricks, Radfords wallpaper, Spotted Gum cladding
  • Flooring: polished concrete
  • Doors: Western Red Cedar with intergrain stain and clear glazing; chrome handles; mirror-framed robe sliding doors
  • Windows: aluminium window frames; clear and obscure glazing
  • Bathroom/kitchen: granite Caesarstone benchtops; Hafele aluminium trim handles; grey tint kitchen mirror splashback; Everstone boomerang tiles (bathroom)
  • Joinery: Laminex; Absolute Grain folding doors and panels.
 

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