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Raise the diaphanous curtain

The Sunday Age

Sunday February 28, 2010


All it takes is a strategically placed piece of material to turn one space into two. IN MOST performances, when the curtain opens, applause follows.At Averil Grieve and Florian Dehne's Clifton Hill home, it's often the curtain that gets the cheers rather than the main characters, the hosts, when they entertain.Northcote architect Steffen Welsch has designed a filmy curtain to subdivide the open plan kitchen/dining space. It's stored out of sight in a slim cupboard on a side wall adjoining the kitchen cabinets.So before dinner starts, the floor-to-ceiling curtain is pulled across to set the scene. Its main purpose is to block the gubbins of meal preparation and the aftermath of eating, soften the space and make it cosier.But its appearance from its little-noticed hiding place generally elicits cheers from guests."You need flexibility of spaces and an element of surprise in a house," says Mr Welsch, who is an admirer of Luis Barragan, the late Mexican architect who believed a house should be serene and not just "a machine for living"."You pull the curtain and something unexpected happens in the space," he says. "The dining area becomes a formal dining room with a restaurant feel."Mr Dehne is from Germany and Ms Grieve from interstate, so their family life is complex. They often have visitors to stay, they entertain formally and informally, and Ms Grieve is an academic who works partly from home so she needs space to herself where she can still see the children play. (Sophie is three and Jessica six.)"It works wonderfully," she says. "We normally use it at night or whenever we need two separate spaces when someone is at the table and someone is cooking. Even though the curtain doesn't block sound, it's a psychological barrier, so it feels like two different rooms. If we have friends over for dinner, it makes the room cosier and more formal," Ms Grieve says."It certainly changes the feeling of the space and it's great for hiding a kitchen full of stuff you don't want to be eating around."By day, the track on the ceiling for the curtain is barely noticeable.Ms Grieve and Mr Dehne renovated the "unliveable" single-fronted Edwardian house about five years ago. Heritage constraints meant they had to retain the facade, front room and part of the roof, but the rest was extensively remodelled to include four bedrooms and a range of sustainable features.These include a concrete slab for thermal mass topped with a spotted gum floor, block work and hard plaster external walls, extensive insulation, double glazing, an angled pergola on the north windows and underground water tanks.Mix and match Dont be boring, think laterally. Makespaces flexible and fun. A folding screen or curtain can makeone space two. Mix materials for impact, such assoft fabric with hard laminate, shinysurfaces with matt

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