The streets of Melbourne are a diverse lot. With a mix of materials, shapes and laneways, they are often in danger of ending up as a messy and incoherent jungle of colours and forms.

However, this spectacular architect-designed home turns that thinking on its head, with a considered, cohesive approach to a dual occupancy project.

The project was in two parts – building a new residence for owner Belinda at the rear of the property, then restoring the original timber cottage for her son and his family at the front.

A modern granny flat

Designed by renowned Melbourne architectural firm, Austin Maynard Architects, it was a response to a modern conundrum.

“Rather than the kids having a family home, and the grandparents living down the back, it’s the opposite way around,” explains Mark Austin, “because, particularly in that part of Melbourne, the real estate is very pricy. By pooling their resources, they both got a great result.”

The showstopper of the new build is undoubtedly the choice of Monier flat Terracotta tiles, which are used as cladding for the rear property, creating an exterior that somehow manages to standout and blend in at the same time.

Why Terracotta?

Why clad the new build in Terracotta? There were a number of reasons, says Austin.

“Probably the main one is the context,” he explains. “It’s in a Melbourne suburban area, so there’s a lot of Terracotta roof tiles. We wanted to choose a material that already existed within the neighbourhood, so that the new additions to the neighbourhood would sit nicely with the existing street context, in a way that it’s not an alien material.”

“Sometimes you see additions down the backs of houses, and they’re just big black boxes or something, but we wanted something that sat nicely in the street, or in our case, the rear laneway.”

The rich burnt orange colour of the terracotta was also a plus, says Austin, especially as it won’t fade over time.

“It’s such a warm, natural texture,” he says. “A lot of the other materials we were looking at were a metal or a timber cladding, but Terracotta was just perfect in adding that natural warmth.”

Lack of maintenance

“The other attraction of the material is the lack of maintenance that is required,” he adds. “Belinda wants to spend her time in the garden, not maintaining a cladding. So it was perfect from that respect. Her son can paint the weatherboards on the front building, but she doesn’t have to do anything.”

The two properties are separated by a lush courtyard filled with edible plants and vegetables, a passion project for Belinda, who is a keen gardener.

“Belinda loves gardening, and the whole central area is really her domain of a vegetable garden,” says Austin. “We saw the front house pre-renovation and there were always so many terracotta pots hanging around her, which we thought was a good signifier for a material to explore.”

“It all seems very casual and all the spaces open up onto that garden, so there’s opportunities for privacy and being alone. We didn’t know how it was going to go with mum living down the back and son at the front, but they’ve worked it out.”

“The studio library space is somewhere where Belinda spends a lot of her time. She’s written a book in that room, a novel, that she had published last year. That’s her kind of internal space. I think that began as a shared space in the community hall, but it’s become her sanctuary I guess.”


Austin Maynard is well known for its commitment to sustainability, and the natural properties of Terracotta made it an attractive option for the cladding.

“We try and explore as many materials as we can,” says Austin. “We have a bit of go at lots of things. But if there’s a material we like, and they’ve got to be a natural material that’s got some sort of sustainable form. If it’s something we like, we just really try and explore what you can do with it.

“Not many people use terracotta tile as wall cladding. It’s a roofing product. So that was a way for us to explore what you could do with this material too. And the builders, Spence Construction, were fantastic at helping us out with that.”

“I think we’ve got good builders. Good builders who like the challenge of things, and we’ve worked with these builders a few times in the past, introducing different materials to them as well. They didn’t say, ‘You can’t do that mate’. They said, ‘how are we going to do this?’. It was great.”

About Monier Terracotta tiles

Monier Terracotta roof tiles are crafted by Australians using raw materials from the Australian landscape. Every Terracotta tile has been shaped and sourced and made in Vermont, VIC.