It’s the interesting structural dimension of this modern, architecturally designed creation that makes it both visually appealing and practical in its function.
Designed by Louise Nettleton Architects and built by Sandlik Constructions, this home is defined by modern, clean lines and its smooth integration of indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces. The client brief was detailed: the owners wanted a home that was light-filled and spacious with a focus on open-plan living.
The original house represented a late Victorian building with its existing sandstone base becoming the inspiration from the very beginning. “Maintaining these walls and making them part of the overall concept for the house was imperative,” says Ian Dunn of Sandlik Constructions, “We re-pointed these walls and configured the dwelling around them to form a level courtyard off what is now the children’s level.” In the original dwelling, the removal of internal walls on the ground level and the creation of new rooms with a new multihipped roof with dormer windows resulted in the loss of any heritage value.
The structure of the home has changed since the rebuild. The previously existing first level was positioned approximately 800mm above where it is now, while the former garage was located in a similar position but just 1m higher and more or less on the street. The three-level home was designed for a growing family. The first floor is the children’s domain. Each child has a spacious bedroom with one of the attached ensuites able to double as a guest bedroom if needed. The kids’ retreat has a TV and music; a teenager’s dream. The laundry is also on this level.
Interestingly, the main entry to the house is accessed separately, behind the garage via the second floor that opens to a link area between the concrete and brick parts of the building. The link also connects all levels with a circulation stair travelling to each floor. A visitor’s bathroom is concealed within this same area. To the west is an eat-in kitchen with a butler’s pantry and cellar beyond. Facing south with eastern and western views is the living room and the adjoining dining room, with the latter extending out to an external north-facing terrace. The living room and kitchen also open out to external terraces, emphasising this seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. It’s the flow of the house Louise Nettleton has created that is the highlight for the owners.
The living area in particular is designed in such a way that each space is separate, though none is constricted by the use of doors. “By luxury homes standards the spaces are not huge but sit easily with one another,” Ian says. Zoning was important to the home, with separate spaces designed for adults and children to enjoy. For the two youngest children’s shared bedroom, the clever design gave them the choice to close off from one another when needed. The third floor accommodates the main bedroom with adjoining ensuite and deck, the ensuite with a small private deck to dry off facing the water. Also upstairs is an office with a separate discreet entry, as well as the garage. Careful consideration was given to the location of the home’s skylights as the dwelling faced due south. “The clients requested more light throughout the house as the site faces south and the existing building did not allow for much light transmission”, Ian says. In the study, skylights provide natural light to not only this workspace but also to the kitchen and living room below. The northern light is maximised at the entry and via the northern courtyard.
Through the use of high-level windows, natural light streams into the children’s bedrooms on the lower level. The severity of the western orientation was overcome with the use of deep concrete blades, with pivoting windows between. These assist with cross ventilation and allow breezes through the living floor. Many environmental aspects were explored throughout the home. Thermal mass keeps the building cool in summer and warm in winter while cross ventilation means the owners rarely need to use airconditioning. Insulation has the maximum rating and all windows have low E “comfort glass”. The building performs exceptionally well in all climate variations with the installation of a large-capacity water tank and solar hot water booster assisting when required. “There was a specific request for much of the building to be ‘off-form’ concrete,” Ian explains. “The clients had lived in Japan where this type of finish is used in high and medium quality buildings and they loved it.” The rawness of the concrete is enhanced by the quality of the finish, the depth of the walls and the “lightness” the material seems to impart internally and externally. It’s this incongruity with the real nature of the material that is a delight. “Building with concrete requires precision, engineering input, design solutions and forward planning. Off-form concrete of this kind is still a trade that has few skilled operators,” says Ian. The success of this building was due to a fine collaboration between the architect, builder, engineer and the owners themselves. Externally, the off-form concrete and face brickwork require little ongoing maintenance, while internally stone floors and recycled timber floors need minimal effort. Other materials, such as zinc, were used for the roofing and siding materials, stone, face brick and concrete, aluminium for the windows and doors were chosen for their durability and functionality.
One of the biggest challenges with the design and the home’s “buildability” was the poor site access. “A 5m wide opening to the site was the only access from the street. The north, south and east are bound by houses; the west by a public pathway to the bay below and at the very top there’s the 5m site entry from the dead end street,” Ian explains. “Once in the site, the slope falls steeply to the south.” The steepness of the slope called for a home that followed an unconventional design with the garage and main entry positioned on the upper levels. Views of the water and bush played a significant role in the design process, too. “Louise worked the building around the views rather than the views dominating the building form and interior,” Ian says. The openings provide a series of vignettes rather than an expansive and overwhelming view. As you move through the building, the view becomes a moving landscape that is forever changing.
Contact Louise Nettleton Architects today,
Level 5, 68 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
(02) 9211 6177
Contact Sandlik Constuctions today,
40 Swanson Street, Erskineville NSW 2043.
02 9557 7211