Builder: Steele Associates Construction Architect: Steele Associates
Navigating our ambitious design in this Conversation Area through the vagaries of Leichhardt Council required skill and perseverance. Success lay in fulfilling our clients brief for a well-appointed, modern family home whilst retaining and respecting the heritage character of the building and street scape.
In order to avoid the ‘tunnel affect’ that open plan terrace conversions can create, we used devices such as a partially retained cross wall to define the front sitting room, Ironbark veneer joinery to differentiate living space from kitchen space, a frameless glass canopy to flood the heart of the home with light, change in floor material and level from Ironbark timber to polished concrete, and progressively raising ceiling towards the rear. The result is a series of linked but distinct spaces which comfortably overlap functions.
Similarly, we wished to avoid the clunky scale of a vertical three-storey rear addition on the narrow site. By using finely detailed horizontal timber batten screen cladding to the first floor, and breaking up the bulk of the ground and attic levels with expressed jointed fibre cement sheet cladding, we created a finely crafted rear addition which reads at a human scale and nestles into its Victorian base delicately.
Steele Associates custom designed the fibre cement cladding system using shadow line joints, stainless steel screws and box-folded cappings to create a sense of the makers hand in the finish. This combination of modern mass-produced materials with traditional craftsmanship makes for a distinctive building.
The brief called for a WC on the ground floor for convenience. However, we didn’t want this function to impact on the limited space available. The solution is a ‘secret bathroom’ tucked under the staircase with its door reading as part of the timber ‘furniture’ object that divides the staircase from the living space. Magnetic seals create privacy for the WC, and the dramatic mirror and black tiled interior make the small space a dramatic feature rather than a pokey toilet cubicle.
The full-size bifold doors allow the interior and rear courtyard to be joined, with the blade walls and crafted timber batten fencing creating a sheltered indoor-outdoor space for entertaining. The custom designed and crafted wall-hung BBQ unit and timber benches add warmth and texture to the garden, inviting one to relax with family and friends.
The fibre cement and timber batten cubby house is a playful gesture, bringing the materiality of the main house to the children’s own realm. The opening wall makes it easily accessible for larger people, too.
Detailed restoration of the original Victorian Terrace frontage restores the original grandeur to the home, befitting the heritage character of the Birchgrove Street.
The stairwell is conceived as a sculptural object to compress and release space, and create varying light conditions. Couple with the feature wall of exposed and sealed chimney brickwork, it becomes an exciting spatial element of the home as well as the circulation path.
Detailed carpentry and joinery throughout the house includes matched flooring to carpet junction at lower stair treads, custom designed routed timber and metal flush joinery door handles, recycled ironbark handrail, burnt ash window reveals and mirrored cavity sliding doors.
Bathrooms make the most of feature stonework, using concealed T5 tubes to flood the marble and limestone panels with light to create a luxurious ambience in the rooms. Recessive, delicate detailing and fine tile-work complete the sense of quality.
Overall, the consideration of every space, detail, material and view has been followed with carefully finished craftsmanship by all trades to create what we feel is a liveable and beautiful family home.