A Transformed Two-Storey Queenslander

Brisbane has many hills, but the stunning ‘Half Way House’ is perched atop a particularly decent one, in Red Hill!

Once a dilapidated two-storey Queenslander, disconnected from the outdoor space at the rear of the steep block, Arcke has imaginatively re-worked this property, by positioning a kitchen halfway between the two levels and integrating landscape design early.

Jo Hoban

The addition of the split-level allowed a generous ceiling height in the new kitchen/dining space, letting in abundant light and creating a feeling of openness. The blackbutt flooring complements the recycled blackbutt island bench which takes centre stage. Photo – Scott Burrows.

The new kitchen dining offers beautiful views across inner-city Paddington. Photo – Scott Burrows.

The large sliding windows give the kitchen/dining the sense of being an outdoor room,  making the most of the beautiful vistas across the city. The ply panel ceiling and blackbutt flooring and island bench add warmth. Photo – Scott Burrows.

The new kitchen/dining area is generous and open, yet simultaneously comfortable and engaging. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Wraparound bench seating makes the kitchen and engaging space to gather and relax. A short flight of stairs leads to the upper level. Photo – Scott Burrows.

View from lower-level living area. Photo – Scott Burrows.

View from the alternate living area to the terraced back yard space, and expansive vista beyond. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Custom cabinetry and record storage. Timber is used to soften other materials such as brick, concrete and plasterboard. Matt likes plywood as it’s sustainable, hardwearing and has the warmth of timber, but is more economical. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Downstairs study. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Short runs of stairs lead from the new half-way level both to the upper-level library and the lower level alternate living with the kitchen being equally accessible from either. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Upstairs library. Retaining the original fireplace and opening it up on four sides (2 x upper and 2 x lower) also acts as a device that connects the upper and lower levels. Photo – Scott Burrows.

View looking up the terrace stairs to the back of the house. Photo – Scott Burrows.

The voluminous new split-level functions as an indoor/outdoor room, or deck, and creates a sense of openness and transparency in the home. Exterior cladding is robust teak, intended to grey off with time. Photo – Scott Burrows.

The back of the home opens onto a leafy exterior. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Looking up to the back exterior of the house from surrounding streets. Photo – Scott Burrows.

Jo Hoban
19th of December 2018

How can one create true balance and connection, in a two storey house on a steep block? Arcke’s Director, Matt Kennedy, is not one to shy away from a good architectural challenge. When his clients, a young family, repeatedly noted their fond recollections of family meals, it was obvious the kitchen needed to be a central gathering space. But where to position it: upstairs or downstairs? Matt posed the idea that the kitchen and dining could be located on a new halfway or ‘split’ level. Easily, and more importantly equally, accessible from the upper and lower levels, the new kitchen is now very much the heart of the house.

The addition of the split-level allowed a very generous ceiling height, that created the opportunity for adjacent spaces to look into the kitchen. This aligned with the clients’ wish for openness and transparency throughout the space – and is further enhanced with large sliding windows. When opened, these allow the space to function as an indoor/outdoor room or deck. According to Matt: ‘The kitchen is counterbalanced by a series of more intimate sitting spaces elsewhere in the building – a reading nook, a separate study and two living rooms with their own personalities give the family multiple breakout spaces to enjoy.’

Like many Queenslanders on steep sites, this house was originally plagued by a sense of disconnection to the ground level. Arcke integrated landscape design early in the design process to activate the back of the block. To ground the building, concrete and brick were used in the lower section where it notches into the site. The rear patio was terraced and landscaping walls were added. ‘The integrated brick seating and new outdoor fireplace at the bottom of the garden provides a focal point and destination that is an extension of the architecture. Walking down the terrace stairs encourages a sense of curious exploration…’ says Matt.

In its new iteration, this house maximises the views from every vantage point, engages with the outdoor areas and blurs the divide between upper and lower levels. ‘Through a multitude of special spaces, rather than one large gesture, the family of four can find their own spaces to inhabit, whilst coming together in others,’ Matt explains. ‘The owners love that the entire site is now activated.’

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