March 9, 2016
Location: Point Piper
The brief to create a welcoming, functional family home from a jumbled assortment of old buildings called for a subtle response to preserve the existing character, and improve circulation, thermal performance and solar access throughout.
Hidden down a private driveway behind a high fence, this irregular-shaped block contains four disparate buildings – a double garage, a two-storey barn, a single-storey addition, and the original two-storey house – loosely strung together to form a solid enclosure around a south-east facing courtyard and swimming pool. This introspective space is dominated by a giant date palm, while a second outdoor room – a terraced lawn on the northern side – offers views across Sydney Harbour.
Despite the generosity of the spaces and sought-after outlook, the home’s livability was poor. Located in two wings, the upper level bedrooms were separated, each accessed by their own staircase. Downstairs living spaces – which opened via French doors to the courtyard – were dark and cold.
The design solution – a new context driven addition atop the single-storey building – improves flow and delivers light and warmth deep into the house.
A series of skylights combine with new clerestory windows to flood the ground floor kitchen and dining area with daylight on two sides.
Upstairs, two new bedrooms and an L-shaped passage – which presents as a place of discovery – are accessed via the original grand staircase and a new spiral stair. It emerges into the cranked elbow of the barn’s upper floor, where a guest room, ensuite and children’s bathroom round out the accommodation.
While it might have been tempting to obscure the existing buildings’ idiosyncrasies, the architect’s sensitive vision considered the home’s inimitable nature and language – high versus low ceilings, compressed versus gracious proportions – and then carefully overlaid form and function across previously disjointed spaces. It’s a subtle yet organic response to a difficult conundrum.