Originally a tired 1920’s house, this light-flooded beach side home is now a happy haven, a de facto art gallery and a prettier face in the streetscape
There’s nothing like living in a home for a period of time to get a proper feel for what works and what doesn’t — and exactly how you’d like it to be. These owners had spent 20 years getting to know their house, so clearly they’d had more than enough time to work out what they wanted to do to turn it into their dream home.
The positives of the 1920s residence were its great beachside location in Sydney’s Bronte, a north–south orientation, and the soothing outlook to established gardens and a significant gully eco-system beyond the rear boundary. The negatives were that it was below street level, had no presence in the streetscape and had always felt dark and damp.
In those 20 years, the family dynamics had changed dramatically, with three more kids born, making four altogether, ranging in age from seven to 21, two of them teenagers. That’s a busy household. So at the top of the clients’ wishlist was the creation of generous family areas along with functional work and study zones — but not at the expense of private retreat areas.
The plan was for a total makeover and a home that would be “sleek, light and spacious, with elegant proportions and functional spaces that flow and yet can be made separate as required”. The owners also wanted to lift their home’s visual presence in the streetscape, maximise views to the established lush tropical gardens and gain more natural light and better airflow.
Architect Andrew Schultz of ASA Architects, working with interior designer Lisa Smyth of Smyth & Smyth and builder Liam Flood of To The Mil, set about creating a design that would include four bedrooms, four bathrooms plus extra WC, library, study, kitchen, living room, TV playroom, plant room, storeroom and man cave. Major considerations were the family’s focus on entertaining, academic study and collecting art.
The tightness of the narrow site made introducing more natural light a challenge. The owners desired a brighter home but also wanted to be certain the extra light would pose no threat of damage over time to their already vast art collection. There were other site limitations, too, such as the need to encase three main sewer lines running through the rear garden. This led to unexpected expense and delays.
The palette of colours and materials is simple, warm and modern: whisper-white walls, charcoal accents, sandstone cladding, American oak floors and black steel throughout. The sandstone is recycled, as are the oregon beams and bricks. Other eco-friendly features include the addition of rainwater tanks and solar panels.
Happy accidents often occur during building or renovating. In this project it was some unplanned curves. As builder Liam tells it, “During the process of building, serious curves began to develop throughout the build, softening sharp corners and bringing a sense of drama to the house. Everybody fell in love with the curves and shapes, except the Gyprocker who, when he first visited the site, scratched his head a lot.”
Those stunning curves add not only drama and real craftsmanship to the all-white interior, but also a gentle elegance. They have a softening effect and introduce a timeless element that’s not tied to a particular style, giving the home’s interior a stamp of individuality.
It’s not only the curves that everyone loves, though. The family and all those involved in the renovation agreed that all expectations were exceeded in the transformation of a dark, damp, unprepossessing house into a light-filled, spacious home that is stylish and comfortable without being ostentatious.
The home is now everything the owners dreamed of for so long. It’s also testament to what can be achieved by a successful collaboration involving shared vision, thoughtful design and expert craftsmanship. Now seamlessly integrated into its surrounds, it does justice to its desirable location.
Stairwells and hallways make good galleries for displaying art, especially where there is a void allowing viewing from other levels
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Written by Kerry Boyne
Photography by Simon Wood
Originally from Home Design magazine Volume 17 Issue 5