Urban delight

Urban delight


by Danielle Townsend

After a colourful life as a factory and pub, this inner-west residence is now a hidden retreat from the hectic working week.

home renovations 

It may be hard to believe now, but before a dramatic renovation, this house in Sydney’s inner west had a confused identity and a dark interior thanks to its past incarnations as both a factory and a pub. The site was also heavily constrained by tall defining walls on three sides, which hemmed the little terrace in. “We also discovered the house was supposedly sitting on contaminated soils, so we needed to negotiate that, too,” says principal architect Shaun Carter of Sydney-based architects, Carterwilliamson. The main request from the clients, Nick and Louise, was that the renovation bring light into the space.

The original house was so dark and segmented that they were desperate for the opportunity to open it up and add some much needed light. “Bringing light into the interior of the house was identified early on as a high priority by the clients,” says Shaun. Additionally, the client is a big soccer fan, so a TV room was a priority for him to relax in comfort and watch his games. A beautiful kitchen was also needed for Louise’s wonderful cooking, as well as a decent study. “Our inspiration was to create an urban delight, a hidden oasis for the clients in the heart of the bustling inner west, a place of rest and seclusion to retreat to at the end of the working week,” says Shaun. Light was added to the home in two ways.

First, the single-room depth of the interior spaces facilitates dispersion of natural light through the interior spaces. “Second, to capture and optimise natural light, the house was structured around a central courtyard, now the heart and soul of the terrace, sunk deep into the centre of the home. The courtyard provides a vital connection between indoor and outdoor spaces and draws light right into the interior of the house. The house then wraps itself around the courtyard core, the permeable walls providing wonderful ‘happenstance’ glimpses into the courtyard below as you spiral upwards towards the top level,” says Shaun.

The central courtyard and rear wall were clad in lightweight FC cladding, framed by natural anodised aluminium batons. The Mondrianesque pattern they created became a design feature, enhanced by a painting scheme inspired by Victorian/Federation tessellated tiling, which explores unexpected colour combinations. On the ground floor, plaster was pulled off the existing party walls, revealing beautiful convicthewn sandstone blocks that were re-pointed to create a textural wall in the entry hall, sitting room and bedroom. New timber floors were laid and the level was reworked to house a bedroom, study and stair. On the first level, the existing front room (to the street) was retained and the ceiling lifted, which restored the lovely proportions of the room.

The windows were changed to French doors that open onto the new balcony. The remaining back of the existing house was pulled down and the courtyard, paired with stair, and kitchen were added to level one. Up on the second level, the stairs terminate at the roof terrace, which has a lovely green-wall garden. This came about as the nature of such a tight urban site meant there wasn’t much room for traditional garden planting, much to the disappointment of the owner, a keen gardener. Instead, the walls of the roof terrace were cloaked in green walls, which play host to a wide variety of textural and colourful plants including herbs, strawberries and tomatoes, which can be added to the family’s meals. They bring life, interest and softness to the private space.

A new bathroom with a vibrant green mosaic wall and a living/TV room were also added to level two and complete the urban oasis that is now so very different from its former lives. “It is difficult to pick a favourite part of the renovated space, guests are always enthralled by the central courtyard space, the way the light plays with the wonderful bold colours, the connection between inside and out, and the vibrancy of the shifting façade of opening and closing doors,” says Shaun. “The house has been completely transformed and offers a wonderful sense of discovery as you meander up and through the house and find light, airy rooms that open to the outdoors in different ways.”

Photography by Brett Boardman 

Project Particulars:
Designed by:
Level 1, 142 Smith Street, Summer Hill NSW 2130 
02 9799 4472 

Built by:
Hampstead Homes 
02 9618 4316
0418 254 422 

Kitchen + bedroom: Spotted gum timber 
Dining: Existing timber 
Living + stairs: Carpet 
Outdoor: Tallow-wood timber deck

All plasterboard walls painted with Dulux Antique White USA
Ground level: Existing sandstone walls were re-pointed
Courtyard space: Central courtyard and rear wall clad in lightweight FC cladding, framed by natural anodised aluminium batons 

Benchtop: Stainless steel
Splashback: Bisazza tiles — Zebra
Cabinetry: Dulux Antique White USA — satin two-pack polyurethane cupboards
Other: Abey Gessi pull-out tap, Highlander three-burner cooktop, Ilve rangehood, Bosch dishwasher, Franke Planar sink, AEG oven

Vixel mosaics 30×30 from artedomus, Virtu Circuit accessories, Caroma cube basin, Grohe Concetto tapware

Lumascape in-floor uplights (to highlight the sandstone on ground level), white downlights, pendants

Windows + external doors: 
Broadview aluminium commercial grade — natural anodised finish for bifold doors, windows and louvres by Breezway

Roof terrace and ground level: Eco Ground floor Pave Pavers 400x400mm