A budget-savvy addition proves it really is all about the angles with a minimalist approach to a Sydney home.
Who lives here: Jo, an administrative contractor; her husband Paul, an IT accounting software consultant; and their children Jacqueline, 11; and Harrison, 8.
Style of home: A Californian bungalow in Sydney’s Lower North Shore with a new contemporary addition fused to the back with twin internal courtyards.
Timeline: A three-year design process made for a slick eight-month construction.
Cost: The total cost of the build was $410k, excluding the cost of design and furniture.
Step inside the simple structure that has transformed Jo and Paul’s home, and you’ll discover a maze of geometry that brings the green scape into the heart of this building. The property’s secluded leafy backyard initially won over Jo and her husband Paul, prompting a snap deal before auction. The Californian bungalow’s facade held charm, of course, but the backyard held promise. Some 18 years and two kids later, Jo and Paul were ready to see that promise fulfilled. “We always had visions of extending back but weren’t sure how,” says Jo. “It was important to get it right; we knew we needed an architect to achieve that.”
With narrow side boundaries and an even tighter budget, the project presented as a puzzle. Eva-Marie Prineas of Architect Prineas, one of four architects the couple met with, came up with a simple solution: preserve the old and fuse with a new shed-like structure at the rear, spliced with glazing to celebrate the lush garden that has made the home special for so long.
Two internal courtyards create a bright transition from old to new, where triangulated ceiling planes carve up the open-plan space. Views of the garden and treetops beyond punctuate the angles. “Because everything is triangulated, it’s lovely to look up and say, ‘oh, there’s another triangle’,” says Jo. “It’s been very cleverly done.”
Jo & Paul’s wishlist
+ “We wanted to bring in as much light as possible and create a sense of space.”
+ “While I love cooking, my main goal was that the kitchen be a gathering place. It feels very rich with our presence.”
+ “ We needed space for the kids. They now have a room at the front that they can take over when they have friends over.”
Having nested in their home for nearly 20 years, Jo and Paul had two firm objectives for their update: light and space. “It was very dark. You’d have to have the lights on really early,” says Jo.
Actual floor space was also in short supply. The couple wanted an ensuite for themselves and an area just for the kids. An extra study was further down the list, but it’s had a wonderful knock-on effect. “The original front study is now able to house our piano,” says Jo. “Previously the piano always sat in our garage, so it’s great to bring it inside. Paul loves to go in there and tinkle away.”
“The thing I love about this project the most is the simplicity in the architectural ideas and how that afforded everything else to happen in that tight budget,” says architect Eva-Marie.
The simple shed-like addition is indeed a cost-saver, combining ensuite, study and kitchen and living spaces into one basic footprint. The bungalow was returned to its original footprint and the living room converted into a master bedroom. A glass link creates a deliberate separation between the two.
With origami-like precision, Eva-Marie manipulated the ceiling plane in the living space to plan the interior layout – think ceiling plan, rather than floorplan. It’s a move that turns the structure from ‘shed-like’ into home. “Even though it’s open-plan, it still feels like you’re in separate zones because of what’s going on above and the different views you’re getting from the position of those oversized dormer windows,” says Eva-Marie.
Fit-out stage was just as thoroughly considered. There was no budget for custom-built joinery so the addition was designed to fit standard flat-pack joinery from IKEA. Seamlessly integrated into recesses in the architecture, it’s a dress-up that’s impossible to pick. Custom benches perfect the trick.
Sleek polished concrete floors also belie their role in keeping the budget on track. The builder took extra care to pour a structural slab that has polished up beautifully, with no other surface or finish needed to complete the look.
Following a two-year design process shaped around work commitments, Jo and Paul gave Eva-Marie the green light and the project moved quickly to build stage, with no need to go through council for approval. “We went through a private certifier because we complied with all the setbacks and all the regulations,” says Eva Marie.
Finding the builder was a simple task. “We showed Jo and Paul a project we did down the road. They talked to the clients and to the builder, Aaron Whyte of Element Constructions, and they loved the way that project had turned out,” says Eva-Marie. “We had a good understanding of their budget and what they could get for their money, and Aaron came on board with that.”
With the build in good hands, Jo hit the shops to find the right pieces for the new living zone, including a prized dining table from Koskela and a Jardan ‘Nook’ sofa. The monochromatic base palette disguises the flat-pack IKEA ‘Faktum’ joinery, creating seamless integration. Jo’s favourite shade – green – is dotted throughout but is most striking as living colour framed through oversized windows.
“The dormer windows were such a surprise,” says Jo. “You see
the drawings, you see the model, but until you are standing in the space looking up at it, you don’t get that sense of drama.”
the best bits
+ “The ceiling angles are very playful and dramatic. When we have the soft lights on, you can look up and spot triangles created by the lines of the ceiling,” says Jo.
+ “The light wells are where old meets new. It’s a stroke of genius, that little area. It always surprises people.”
+ “I love green. I wanted to see that inside and outside.
“Never assume anything. Go over the plan with a fine-tooth comb. I’m glad we did that before construction started – it was much more cost-effective,” says Jo.