Inside a contemporary Mosman home and its challenging build process
James Hardie Easylap pre-primed panel cladding (painted in Malay Grey) encases the top floor

Inside a contemporary Mosman home and its challenging build process

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From a home without street access to the best house on an already impressive block, TDDP Architects and Lawson & Lovell Building Services have outdone themselves with this Mosman home

Scant access to natural light, a restrictive floor plan and a lack of privacy compromised the efficiency of the existing brick building and lightweight addition with exposed roof terrace. A contemporary home that capitalised on the surrounding views and sunlight was the client’s top priority. For a family of four (including two teenage boys), the design needed to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere while providing the family with flexible entertaining opportunities at the same time.

Northern Beaches expert building company Lawson & Lovell was given the construction reins and made the most of what the team described as “one of the most logistically and geographically difficult sites” they’d ever encountered. The original single-storey structure was retained to minimise demolition and corresponding landfill. Adding to the project’s green footprint is a collection of operable windows and shading devices that encourage inhabitants to manage thermal comfort via passive cooling and ventilation.

The design retained and reconfigured the existing ground-floor plan, according to Victoria Dennis, director of TDDP Architects. “The number of bedrooms was increased from two to three and the existing family living room was upgraded,” she explains.Down on the first floor, a new living, kitchen and dining area was constructed, as was a master bedroom suite (with walk-in wardrobe, study and ensuite), with all flooring finished beautifully in tallowwood.

James Hardie Easylap pre-primed panel cladding (painted in Dulux Malay Grey) encases the top floor, and 30x30mm battens conceal joints. The result is a facade that enjoys the appearance of zinc cladding for a fraction of the cost. “Due to the positioning of the Mosman home on the hill, it was critical the building’s contemporary design nestled quietly into the existing context,” Victoria says. “Colours and forms were selected to be complementary and respectful to the existing landscape and neighbours.”

The house’s window frames are all black aluminium, with those that face north featuring extended black powder-coated aluminium sunhoods for extra shading and privacy. Up top, a 12m-long high-level clerestory window enables natural light to flood the first floor (and down the stairwell to the lower ground), framing views of the surrounding tree canopy. Meanwhile, thoughtful use of structural steel hides a hydraulics system and enables a cantilevered awning to span out, providing shade to the ground-floor alfresco entertaining space.

Teenage boys and the great outdoors go together like bricks and mortar, and this home offers plenty of opportunities for its youngest inhabitants to stretch their legs and hang out with friends.
A pool and terrace prove popular spots. Landscape work included a new southern entry, pool and terrace. “A new large timber deck was constructed at the rear, capitalising on the northern orientation and connecting with the natural vegetation surrounding the building,” Victoria notes.

The landlocked site had no street access and could only be reached using 32 public pedestrian steps. Seven neighbouring properties sharing the same boundary line exacerbated the challenges of demolition, excavation and building in such a tricky location. To save the builders’ backs and make the transport of materials more manageable, a 40m conveyor belt was installed next to the pedestrian access steps.

“At the point of tender, many builders looked at the site and immediately said ‘no, thank you’,” Victoria recalls, noting the usefulness of the conveyer belt during the excavation of the pool when large rocks and dirt were moved quickly down to trucks waiting below on street level.

Close collaboration between client, architect and builder, and a strong, shared vision minimised the effect of issues that cropped up. One such issue was the new orientation of the living spaces on the first floor of the Mosman home. Minor internal planning amendments and a clever arrangement ensured full access to the enviable harbour vista without sacrificing privacy. Thus, the home strikes a delicate balance between existing site conditions and the client brief.

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Written by Louise Smithers

Photography by Adam Resch

Originally in Grand Designs Australia Magazine Volume 8 Issue 6