THROUGH A WHITE TIMBER PICKET GATE AND INTO A PRIVATE L-SHAPED garden is the pedestrians' route to architect Andre Porebski's Woollahra home From first glance there is no indication The Grove exists - an intimate enclave creating a sanctuary of quiet off the bustle of Queen Street, At the end of the narrow garden sits an 1877 sandstone cottage: tidy, compact, discreet. It's not until I step inside that the space is transformed into a modern take on the old world.
"I worked with the heritage listing but didn't want to be confined by it, explains Porebski, as he directs a tour of his Sydney home. Having recently been awarded with a heritage conservation award for the design, the architect initially went about retaining the building's structure while reworking the interior. This involved knocking down an inner wall but replicating double French doors overlooking the courtyard in the living room of the cottage, to remain faithful to the original style. The four rooms of the cottage were transformed into three. with a library, living room and spare bedroom bisected by a sombre hallway that serves as the artery leading to the modern extension.
Porebski has attached a breezy, industrial-feel double-storey residential addition to the rear of the cottage, which forms the larger part of the house. The kitchen and entertaining areas are here, complete with a spectacular mezzanine study and catwalk overlooking the Le Corbusier-designed UNESCO tapestry that consumes the entire double-storey wall. of linear design with muted-coloured walls and glazed from every angle, the juxtaposition of old and new are brought together using extraordinary methods. So how do you effect this merge as seamlessly as possible? Porebski chose a glass atrium to join the two structures from differing centuries. He selected similar materials throughout both spaces to further unite the two with one presiding style. The house is a combination of recycled blackbutt timber, limestone, concrete and metal.
The cottage is bathed in more colour than the main house. A 1940s Meslikin Kilim runner greets the guest, with four Tracey Moffatt works from her Forth series along the eastern wall. In the living room which overlooks the courtyard, Turner's Landscape With Waterfall is arresting. Polished blackbutt flooring is shrouded in every room by an exquisite rugs from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A distinct cooling is experienced when walking from the timber-floored cottage on to the limestone that is the dominant theme in the modern section. This limestone is used both inside and outside (as paving) as well as in the bathrooms. The decision to use the some flooring throughout much of the space, says Porebski, -brings it all together and makes the bathrooms look bigger." Porebski brings the outside in by making an impressive Magnolia grandiflora tree in the garden outside the focal point for the whole complex. It can be seen from almost every aspect of the home. An elegant use of physics disguises a double chain descending to pebbles as a rainwater drainpipe, continuing his industrial approach applied on a domestic scale. Exacerbating this is the ceiling of the family room: concrete cross-beams are laterally lit in darkness and elevated, giving the impression of being on a factory floor.
The architect has been a collector of chairs for decades, owning several pairs throughout the house and says of a couple from the living room at the front of the cottage, "I saw these in a cafe in Paris in the 1970s. It was well before anyone knew who Philippe Starck was and I liked them so much. I arranged to have two shipped to me." This eye for classic style punctuates Porebski's life. He says that he only ever bought things that he believed would last a lifetime. This philosophy has led to a spectrum of eras beneath one roof.
Not only has Andre Porebski created a blend of old and new that is timeless. he has also divined a comfortable living space that brings the outside in. He doesn't want to live in the dark and this desire is realised throughout. "I've lived elsewhere and didn't have enough light," he confides. "I never wanted that to happen again."