As architects operating in a culture where the square meterage of floor plans seem to grow and grow, we are convinced that the biggest contribution we can make towards a sustainable built environment is the design and inhabitation of ‘fit’ buildings; buildings that are not simply ‘big’, but big enough and flexible enough to accommodate changing lifestyles.
Our clients loved living in their little two bedroom semi in the leafy Sydney suburb of Crows Nest, but it was plagued with familiar problems; the lovely, considered rooms at the front of the house gave way to a rabble of cramped, accumulated additions at the rear which fundamentally disconnected the living spaces from the potential of the small north facing courtyard.
Although the clients had initially planned to renovate and on-sell for something larger to accommodate their growing family, they embraced the social and sustainable benefits of reworking their much-loved existing home to suit their future needs. With limited outdoor space the renovation needed to fit within the existing envelope and make the most of its connection to the outdoors. What was originally a cluster of rooms at the rear was re-imagined as a single, open space (6mx4m). We envisaged this room as the heart of the home; a place to cook and share a meal, a place to sit and read.
The first step was to connect the new space with the existing courtyard through large, sliding doors that pulled beyond the building, dissolving the rear facade, and blurring the line between inside and out. The glazed doors capitalise on the room’s northern orientation, allowing the space to be naturally lit throughout the day.
Along the eastern boundary the generous side setback was large enough to be considered a small garden and we opened the room up to embrace this additional slither of outdoor space, puncturing the wall with a huge, recycled timber window. The window looks out to the bamboo garden and lets morning light to stream into the room, whilst its deep reveal doubles as a bench seat for the dining table and a perfect spot to curl up with a book. Our client is an avid reader and collector of books so we lined the wall with shelves to house and display her expansive collection. The colourful book spines complement and contrast the otherwise pared back palette of natural colours and finishes.
Opposite, a fresh white galley kitchen cranks along the Western wall. During the day the mirrored splashback draws in the green of the bamboo courtyard and the colours of the library wall, while at night it reflects the glow of the pendant lights and happy faces gathered around the dinning table. This is the kind of project that captures the imagination of our studio. Small spaces demand fitness and interrogation, flexibility and adaptability. For our clients however, the beauty of this project is that it allows their growing family to call this much-loved semi ‘home’ for many years to come.Location: Sydney, Australia Architect: Carter Williamson Architects