Playful Family Home With A Lightwell At Its Center

Designing homes for families with young kids is always challenging but things get even more complicated when you want the house to function as a giant playground while still being functional for the adults. The Mills house is a representation of the success of this challenge. The residence is located in Melbourne, Australia and was completed in 2015.

Mills House white facade

The Mills residence was a project by Austin Maynard Architects, a company led by directors Andrew Maynard and Mark Austin, two exciting architects set to change the face of Melbourne and to inspire the world with their edgy designs and concepts.

Mills House perforated metal facade trio

The brief was to create a light-filled home that would be fun for the kids and that could also hide the mess in order to be practical and functional for the parents. The house was designed as an extension for a one-level weatherboard terrace already existent on the site.

Mills House facade and openings

The original facade and two rooms of the existing structure were preserved. However, there’s no distinction between these elements and the new extension. The overall design is cohesive and fluid throughout thanks to the use of materials such as perforated metal throughout.

Mills House facade and entrance

Perforated metal was used to blur the barriers between the indoor and outdoor, allowing the facade to look solid during the sunny days and to become delicate and see-through at night. This material was also used for the interior staircase in order to offer it a light, lace-like look and to allow light to travel through, enabling conversation between the floors.

Mills House perforated metal floor
Mills House staircase

The perforated metal walls and features also help control sunlight and avoid creating isolated spaces that would make this small home look even tinier as well as less comfortable and inviting. The living space has glass walls which allow it to connect with the outdoor area.

Mills House staircase wall
Mills House staircase of perforated metal
Mills House staircase material

The extension incorporates an open kitchen, a living space and a dining area plus two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper level. These spaces are added to the existing two rooms, one of which has been redesigned and transformed into a study with its own bathroom.

Mills House sunken floor

Because the house is small, the architects wanted to avoid filling it with bulky cabinets on the walls and floor. Their ingenious solution was to hide all the storage within the floor. This allowed them to free up floor space and to leave the walls open and free of clutter.

Mills House underfloor storage

They also tweaked the floor, transforming it into a large toy box that makes raising a baby a lot easier and less frustrating. As a result, the floor is actually 1.5 feet deep. The floor throughout functions as a playground for the kids and a large storage compartment for everyone in the house. The sunken seating area is really cozy, making good use of the design and structure of the house.

Mills House kitchen and dining area
Mills House kitchen and dining open to lightwell

The kitchen is placed at the original floor height, in contrast with the living area. This brings it above the toy box area. The dining space is also found here. Both the kitchen and the dining space open onto a central courtyard that the architects named a lightwell. This section separates the original structure from the new extension and brings light inside the house.

Mills House upstairs hallway

The area upstairs houses the bedrooms. The master bedroom can completely open to a hallway through sliding doors and this allows it to maximize its size, adding almost two meters (6.6 ft) to the floor space.

Mills House bathroom tub
Mills House bathroom tub custom design

The bathroom, although not big, has a clean and fresh design. The focal point is a custom bathroom designed specifically for this space. It’s made of fiberglass and it’s yellow. It has no seams or joins and was designed this way for easy maintenance. The bathroom looks very sunny and bright also thanks to the large windows that open onto the lightwell.

Mills House kid room loft bed

The Mills house is a really fun home, easy to maintain and optimized for a family with kids. It was also a sustainable project, featuring passive solar heating, high performance insulation, solar panels on the new roof, a large water tank buried within the lightwell and double glazed windows.

Mills House kid room shelves