Nostalgia Reinvented: Milkbar House by Kennedy Nolan.


Whenever I think of a ‘milk bar’, I imagine that vintage montage of bike rides down the brown-tinted lens of summer suburbia with pink, blue chromatic tinsels flying around the handlebars as we veer to the local milk bar for a good smoothie or ice cream. Okay, maybe I may have watched way too many romantic comedies — but I still get those vibes when I look at Kennedy Nolan’s Milkbar House.

Located in North Fitzroy in Melbourne, Milkbar House, true to its name, is a corner block home built with the classic archetype of a milk bar with the owner’s residence attached. Taking the beloved narrative, Kennedy Nolan refits the house with lovely transitional experiences while evoking that rosy nostalgia feeling within.

Milkbar House was attached with a dreary white Victorian weatherboard structure, which the clients requested to be transformed into a home that would fit a “very large garage and a large productive garden”, explains Pat Kennedy.

An enthusiastic challenge, the architects turned to compartmentalising of spaces — one inspired by the Medina of Arab cities as well as the existing high that once fronted the original milkbar (and one that is almost impossible to obtain due to new Planning Regulations). The inspiration additionally served as an exciting opportunity to capture the thresholds that would offer a form of respite and privacy from the street front.


Related: Belmont House in Kew, VIC by Kennedy Nolan.



Repainted in milky white, the existing wall frames the requested large garden timely orientated to the north and is embraced by the kitchen, living and dining areas. The garden, demarcated by a circular green ‘oasis’ is crowned by a circular cloister in preparation for strings of vines to curtain around the lawn as time permits. Connected to the east side sits the large garage, closed off by a sliding door to shelter bikes, bins and compost away from the picturesque scene. The west, however, contains a study nook structured with a view of growing trees transforming into ‘an abstracted, vegetal jali’.

In true Kennedy Nolan fashion — both the exterior and interior of the house is a patchwork that thoughtfully introduces playful elements while reflecting the site’s history. Weather worn awnings are now replaced with bolder and comical ones (also camouflaged in white) accompanied by geometric window bars to offset the quality of playfulness.


Related: Caroline House in Melbourne by Kennedy Nolan.



The living room is a mixture of granite-like terrazzo and exposed brick hints to the former milk bar’s floors and shiny fixtures; while the darkened timber found in the newly introduced clerestory, boxed window frames and other timber fixtures resonate with the former’s joinery. The language of stone and timber are repeated in a similar but with softened textures in the bedrooms also located in the west. And among the greys and browns, square mint tiles and painted joinery against the pale gold-brass coloured tapware and cabinetry handles block themselves in the kitchen and wet areas — replicating a similar aura of the ‘oasis’ created from the garden.

From the smallest detail moments to bold gestural statements, Milkbar House is certainly one would envy and perhaps become inevitably drawn to. Rather than riding the bike for that dessert run, it’s now substituted with a mindful walk under the sunsetting skies — hopeful they’ll be able to witness the pocket of bliss shared through the former milk bar’s door.


Related: Calm Drama: Elsternwick House by Kennedy Nolan.


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