- Photographer: Anson Smart , Brett Boardman
- City: Birchgrove
- Country: Australia
Text description provided by the architects. A compact site of 260 square metres, with access from two streets, steeply sloping down to a foreshore reserve, with a pre-existing house, ready ruined by a series of poor quality renovations over the years. The brief was to design a forever home, for a young family of four, and potentially at least one set of parents. The home was to do three things:
1. Be a testing ground for the architect’s ideas about modest living and design;
2. Allow her parents a future home on site with independent access but under the same roof, with enough room to also accommodate visiting family and friends.
3. To be as environmentally sustainable as possible.
The couple had occupied the existing near derelict home for four years before plans and council approvals were finalized for its replacement. Riddled with black mould, the old house was literally a health hazard; its replacement a breath of fresh air.
The architect’s response was to use the steep slope and second street access to best advantage, Fox designed a self-contained dual-key accommodation suite and garage on the lower two levels, forming a podium for the two-level house above.
We live on the ground and upper floor, and have the apartment for our parents or family guests below. The design gives as much connection or separation as we all need. At fist my husband joked that I’d designed a hotel! But he now realises how well the arrangement works. _ Emili Fox, Director, Fox Johnston Architects
With separate access from the secondary street below, the self-contained guest quarters can either be open to the main house upstairs, or locked for completely independent living. The dual key accommodation includes a bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom and balcony, and a larger one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, bathroom, living room and balcony. Garden connections are central to the interior planning. The main living level flows easily from the front walled courtyard to the living room, past a central garden lightwell and out to a balcony facing the harbor and the city. A built-in deep daybed off the kitchen makes a quiet afternoon napping /reading nook. Upstairs, the main bedroom has a small harbor-view balcony, while the children’s bedrooms overlook rooftop cactus gardens.
The material palette is robust and refined. Th downstairs areas with recycled bricks either raw or painted, with exposed concrete floors and ceilings. Joinery through is a pale plywood, window and door frames are a blonde Accoya wood - sustainably sourced. Upstairs, the softer palette sees wainscotted walls and a faceted ceiling painted a duck egg blue, with carpets of deep indigo. Environmental sustainable design (ESD) helps to naturally regulate indoor temperature and significantly reduce energy consumption. Timber sliding screens to all the upstairs windows cool the top level and allow changeable outlooks to each bedroom. Operable windows on the upper levels ‘draw’ hot air out of the house in summer.
The house is designed to work in the hot summer months by closing it down during the day, and opening it up again once the temperature outside starts to fall. It’s funny that people seem to not understand this simple trick; they instead open up their houses when it’s really hot – hence the need for air conditioning! _ Emili Fox, Director, Fox Johnston Architects
Sustainable Design Features include: Solar panels plus battery storage equips the house to be 92% off the grid, rainwater is harvested in tanks; grey-water is recycled for irrigation, ceiling fans and operable glazing help moderate indoor air temperature, sliding cedar screens and wide roof overhangs on the top level protect glazed façades, hydronic in-slab floor heating, low-E window glazing.