Adorable Japanese-Like Home Renovation In Melbourne


Founder John Wardle Architects has remodeled his 25 years Melbourne home in Kew Residence. He’s using Victorian ash and handcrafted glass tiles from Japan for this house. John Wardle and his wife Susan have owned the two-storey house for a quarter of a century and renovated it multiple times.


“My first year of practice coincided with my first year of homeownership,” said John. “I undertook the pre-purchase inspection of the house and completely missed the tell-tale sign of termite infestation throughout which required a more substantial re-build than first anticipated!” he added. “Three children wore out the last iteration.”


With the couple’s grown child and moving in, the kitchen and study room on the first floor became the focal point of the house. For this version of Kew Residence, the architect focused on creating space to display his art collection.

“Of particular interest to me is the study especially during this time in lockdown, as I spend just about all my daylight hours solely in this space,” said Wardle.

Here, built-in shelves form an informal display for the ceramic art collection and sculpture.


Victorian ash adorns the floor and ceiling to create a “cocoon” sensation with views of the lush garden outside.

“The corner window arrangement is a direct reference to a composition of the window seat in the living room of the Fisher House in Pennsylvania by Louis Kahn,” explained the architect.

“My arrangement of five windowpanes, ventilation panel and a window seat is abstracted from the original as I’ve arranged them around my view out across Melbourne.”


The wood also forms a base for displaying certain sculptures and serves as a neutral backdrop for the art on display on a shelf.

“For many years I’ve had a fascination for ceramics both as objects and the process of their making and have collected many objects from many places over time,” said the architect.

“My travels to Japan have resulted in many of my favorite pieces.”


Concealed sliding panels, separate hand pulls, and hidden cabinets hide storage throughout the Kew Residence. Wardle designed the joinery, including the bookshelf and main staircase, himself and had them built by expert craftsmen.


The wood of choice, Victorian ash, is the main material used throughout the house.

“I’ve always had an affinity for this beautiful primary indigenous species,” said Wardle.

“Vast forests of this majestic tree were decimated in bushfires here in Australia earlier this year, unfortunately. It’s not something I would feel confident in specifying again until substantial regrowth occurs.”


The wood features in the kitchen too, in addition to the dark and flashy ceramic tiles made by INAX in Japan. This narrow concave tile has been arranged vertically to create an interesting textured backsplash that reaches the wood-lined ceiling. INAX tiles also line the master bathroom, which was built in the previous expansion to this residence.


Wardle has visited Tokoname, where the maker lives, and Kew Residence showcases five different styles of ceramic tile.

“Our practice has a long association with INAX, the Japanese tile manufacturer, having used their tiles in the suspended gallery in our Phoenix project, as well as 60,000 plus individual tiles embedded into the concrete facade panels of our Melbourne Conservatorium project,” said Wardle.

“The ancestors of INAX produced the tiles so loved by Frank Lloyd Wright and his partners and used to great effect on the Imperial Hotel.”



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