Sensitively blending Federation architecture with Scandi style, this Sydney home showcases the best of both.
Jul 14, 2022 5:57am
This home on Sydney’s Lower North Shore cast a spell on its owners. When they bought it as a shabby bungalow in 2017, they intended to knock it down – although just over a century old, it was not heritage-listed – and start all over again. But, while waiting for the plans to be approved, they moved in, painting the interior throughout and tidying the garden to make it more liveable.
After that simple refresh, the house revealed itself in a whole new light. It charmed them with its classic detailing, including cornices, archways, fanlights, stained glass and sash windows, together with high ceilings and solid double-brick construction.
“We fell in love with the light and the period features,” says the owner. “Luckily, when we followed up with a professional assessment, we discovered the best parts could be saved.”
Architect Mohit Keni, a co-director at Corben Architects, was commissioned to steer a renovation that paid homage to the home’s past glory, with contemporary finishes and amenities to ensure its liveability into the future. It had to provide the owners and their two adult daughters, who often come to stay, with light-filled living spaces and an indoor-outdoor connection.
Four bedrooms, all with ensuites, two living areas, an office, a kitchen with a butler’s pantry, natural light, access to the harbour view and plenty of storage all featured on the owners’ comprehensive wish list.
“From a practical perspective, we hoped for efficient, useable space, with lots of light,” says the owner. “From an aesthetic perspective, we were keen to highlight the beautiful period features as well as the fresh, airy and modern feel of Scandinavian-style homes.”
First, a mismatched 1970s addition at the rear bit the dust. In its place is a light-filled extension that houses two bedrooms and a study on the ground floor and a bedroom and two bathrooms upstairs; Mohit also inserted a main bedroom suite in what was previously unused attic space within the original house.
The extension is notable for its four pitched sections, including two dormer windows, that echo the home’s original roofline. “The roof has become a distinguishing feature,” says Mohit. “The new parts tie in with the traditional architecture, but in a contemporary way.”
Referencing Scandinavian style, slate extends from the roof as shingles on the dormers. “We didn’t want them to stand out too much, so we linked them to the roof with no overhang, a contemporary expression of traditional dormers.”
Within the upstairs bedrooms, Mohit has exploited the roof geometry to make a feature of the internal pitch.
Since the home enjoys Sydney Harbour vistas to the north, it was decided that a sociable open-plan kitchen/dining area would make better use of the outlook than the bedrooms that were then occupying that part of the floor plan; new french doors connect this space to the garden and its water views beyond.
Removing a section of wall on the opposite side of the hallway created a link between the new kitchen and living room and helps the house ‘breathe’.
To ensure a crisp, clean look, Mohit included plenty of storage. Ample natural light, too, was essential. “We squeezed in storage wherever possible, such as a butler’s pantry and undercroft under the stairs,” he says. And there’s a storage nook behind the wardrobe in the main bedroom on the upper level, as well as a new waterproof cubbyhole under the kitchen and dining.
Meanwhile, skylights in the upstairs bathrooms, covered rear terrace and the stairwell guarantee plenty of daylight.
Because the owners wanted a Scandi feel, the external red brickwork was painted white. “This modern look was carried through internally. Everything’s simple, minimal and uncluttered, with light-stained, natural-look oak floors,” says Mohit. “Having all-white joinery and not many textures – even the bathroom floor tiles are tonally similar to the floorboards – creates a smooth flow from one room to another, providing the owners with a blank canvas to add their personal touch.”
“We wanted a neutral, calm and warm, palette, with texture and colour in the accessories, furniture and art,” adds the owner.
Classic pieces, in natural hues devoid of pattern but boasting plenty of texture, are used throughout. Perhaps the most striking of these is the octet of Hans Wegner ‘Wishbone’ chairs that take pride of place in the dining area.
“One of our favourite spots is the dining area, which is adjacent to the window to the north and overlooking the harbour. From there, as well as the kitchen beside it, the eye is drawn to that beautiful view through a classic archway. We also love the early morning light that streams into the living room, through the original windows,” says the owners.
They are both constant reminders of how the home’s original fabric has been skilfully interwoven with the new, with spellbinding results.
Corben Architects, Neutral Bay, NSW; (02) 9904 1844 or corben.com.au