This sandstone heritage home has shaken off its stuffy past. After a dramatic renovation, it no longer turns its back on the spectacular setting - it positively soaks it up through double-height glazing that frames the jacaranda, the lomandra, and the bushland and water beyond. For the home's art-loving owners, the sun-dappled landscape has become a masterwork, part of the decor in a brillant interplay of interior and exterior.
When they bought it, the 1870s house on Sydney's lower north shore had been reduced to a jumble of add-ons and dark corridors. And it was anything but open plan. "The house didn't breathe. You were either inside or outside and never in between," says Stephen Lesiuk of Lesiuk Architects, who handled the spatial elements of the project.
"The brief was to purify the old house," says architect Nadine Alwill of Alwill, who undertook the detailing. The plan was also to embrace the view, create cooling breezeways throughout and let sunlight pour in. "There had to be plenty of space for art, but nothing showy," says Nadine. "Everything had to be comfortable, with their 50s Scandinavian furniture a reference point."
An 80s extension was demolished and the original section of the house gutted, with a steel skeleton inserted to support the structure. Now, double-height wide-span louvres create a link between a sleek new wing and the spruced-up heritage section. The Louvres and a wall of slides, which admit abundant air and light into the living areas, front onto a vast terrace, above which is a luxuriant jacaranda. It isn't just for display - the deciduous tree cools the house in summer and lets in the sun during winter.
The masterful makeover was achieved within the existing footprint - just one wall on the northern side was moved one metre to accommodate a massive multi-panelled artwork. Almost every wall carries an impressive piece of art, adding colour throughout.
A steel staircase forms the backbone of the home, connecting the basement study to the living areas on the entry level and the five bedrooms upstairs. Nadine describes it as like a piece of origami. Belying its 8-tonne weight. it appears to flort, ethereally lit from above by a skylight. To the right of the entry are the family areas. Two miles van der Rohe 'Barcelona' day beds sit beside the stairway; beyond are an informal eating area and a massive kitchen with a wall of cherrywood joinery that adds warmth to the concrete floors. Directly in front of the staircase, within the original section, are the formal living and dining areas that take in the view through french doors. On the first floor are the main bedroom and ensuite, a guestroom and three children's bedrooms
Throughout the home, openness and privacy cleverly co-exist. A screen of cedar battens slides across the front entry to ensure a sense of seclusion yet also aloow airflow when the door is open, and the bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that disappear into the wall cavity.
"They create a continuity of space, but also privacy, if required and a sliding screen of timber batterns in the main ensuite creates a beautiful, filtered light."
Words by Chris Pearson, extracted from Belle, February March 2010