This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

A Sydney Cottage Conversion Influenced By Traditional Japanese Architecture

Architecture

Machiya are traditional Japanese wooden townhouses, and part of Japanese vernacular ‘folk dwellings.’ They are mostly concentrated in Kyoto… but Sydney architects Downie North have re-imagined this traditional Japanese home in a distinctly Sydney setting!

This two-bedroom cottage in Balmain has undergone a bright and cheerful renovation, that cleverly balances public and private realms through a mix of Japanese inspiration, and response to the local context.

13th May, 2019

From the cottage front view, you wouldn’t notice the renovation to the Machiya House by Downie South architects. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The staircase in this house was designed within 1 millimeter of precision to fit. Photo – Katherine Lu.

A renovation that lets light in, but protects privacy. Photo – Katherine Lu.

A bright and fresh family home, renovated before the arrival of twins! Photo – Katherine Lu.

The history of the home is revealed through the pained interior brickwork. Photo – Katherine Lu.

Simplicity and serenity. Photo – Katherine Lu.

The shuttered windows trace the line of the roof. Photo – Katherine Lu.

A Balmain cottage gets a Japanese inspired addition! Photo – Katherine Lu.

Miriam McGarry
Monday 13th May 2019

‘We deliberately left traces of the past, in form and materiality.’ – Daniel North.

The Machiya House by husband and wife architect team Catherine Downie and Daniel North of Downie North is a renovation of a two-bedroom semi-detached cottage in Balmain. The brief was to transform the home into something more spacious, to accommodate the imminent arrival of twins, while respecting the constraints of Balmain’s Iron Cove Heritage Conservation Area overlays.

The original home followed a typical layout of its era, with poor flow between rooms, and lack of connection between the living and outdoor spaces. The clients wanted a new kitchen, living, dining, bathroom and laundry, as well as the addition of a master bedroom with ensuite and private study. To accommodate all of this, within a tight L-shaped corner site, the architects looked to international examples of small footprint living for inspiration.

The outcome draws upon the design of traditional Japanese wooden townhouses through layering, screening, ladders and semi-screened stairs to balance private and public spaces within a constricted site. Architect Catherine Downie explains ‘to ensure privacy for the clients, while engaging positively with the public domain, we used “curated openings”’. This brings daylight into the deepest corner of the home, without forfeiting any privacy for the family.

From the front street view, the home retains its cottage façade, but turn down the laneway at the side, and the full extent of this inventive extension is revealed. Daniel North explains that the industrial heritage of the Balmain area has been intentionally retained, ‘we deliberately left traces of the past in terms of form and materiality.’ Original brickwork is still visible, and the use of galvanised steel in the new addition offers a gentle nod to the site’s past.

The relatively small space necessitated precision and incredible attention to detail to make the densely layered home feel polished and resolved. Daniel highlights that the stunning steel staircase was fabricated with millimetre precision to float flawlessly between the ground-floor concrete slab to the first floor. The home also utilised new technologies in 3D modelling, drawing on traditional Machiya design – a brilliant mix of past and present. It isn’t surprising that this home was shortlisted for both the AIA NSW Architecture Awards and 2019 Houses Awards, Alteration and Addition under 200sqm!

This Week

Creative People

The New Australian Furniture Brand That ‘Won’t Break The Bank’

The new Peninsula furniture range by Jake Williamson aims to make local design accessible.
Lucy Feagins
  4 hours ago

Interiors

A Swedish Summer Cottage In South Australia

Emma Read and Sarah Hall of My Sister And The Sea create a cosy cottage getaway on the edge of the Innes National Park.
Miriam McGarry

TDF Design Awards

The Emerging Designers In The Running To WIN At The TDF Design Awards

Seven of Australia's most accomplished new designers and emerging design studios, in the running to WIN at TDF Design Awards!

Interiors

Apartment Life, Furnished Right!

Simone Haag Interior Design transforms a tiny apartment in Clifton Hill into a fun and functional space.
Miriam McGarry

Art

Influential Australian Women Star In National Portrait Prize Shortlist

Nova Peris, Magda Szubankski, Annabel Crabb and other icons grace the paintings in the running for Australia's richest art prize, the 2019 D...
Elle Murrell

Architecture

A Modern Country Home Inspired By The Aussie Shed

The Wensleydale by Byrne Architects is the epitome of luxe, contemporary country living - and you can stay here!
Miriam McGarry

News

The Archibald Arrives At TarraWarra

Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art award comes to Victoria, featuring portraits of 51 subjects.
Miriam McGarry

Shopping

Ten Things Lucy Loved At Maison & Objet In Paris!

Lucy shares the top ten picks from her whirlwind trip to Paris, for Maison & Objet, the premier trade fair for decoration, design and lifest...

Studio Visit

The Art Of Daydreaming, Captured In A New Exhibition By Kat Macleod

Inside ‘Reverist’, a new body of work that goes on show at Lamington Drive tonight!
Elle Murrell

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours: Spring Greens with Ricotta

Our favourite foodie is back with another must-cook dish! Today, the self-taught cook shares her recipe for a simple crowd-pleasing starter....
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Gardens

A Robust Rooftop Garden In Rozelle

Klaus and Anne Schindhelm share their expansive apartment 'backyard' with spectacular water views!
Georgina Reid
  12 hours ago

TDF Design Awards

And Winners Of The TDF Design Awards Are...

After celebrating last night at our fabulous awards ceremony, we are so excited to announce the WINNERS of the TDF Design Awards 2019!

Studio Visit

The Story Behind Our One-Of-A-Kind Awards Trophies

How glass artist Amanda Dziedzic created the exquisite glass trophies we'll be awarding to the TDF Design Award winners tonight!

Modernist Australia

A Robin Boyd Bushland Block Up For Sale!

A classic home by Australia's most loved modernist architect, the 'Uglow House' in Montmorency is on the market for a steal!
Patricia Callan

Homes

Plant Mama’s Plant Haven!

Green guru Jenna Holmes aka Plant Mama shares her Collingwood jungle home.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

Twin Peaks = Twice The Appeal

This 'dual-hatted' home in Naremburn, NSW draws on Japanese influences, by Benn + Penna Architects.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Truly Transformative Cottage Conversion

Studio Prineas breathe new life and light into this compact home in Cammeray, New South Wales.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Thoroughly Tactile Terrace

Bringing new light and life to a narrow North Fitzroy home, with Olaver Architecture.
Miriam McGarry

This Week

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours: Spring Greens with Ricotta

Our favourite foodie is back with another must-cook dish! Today, the self-taught cook shares her recipe for a simple crowd-pleasing starter....
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Homes

Plant Mama’s Plant Haven!

Green guru Jenna Holmes aka Plant Mama shares her Collingwood jungle home.

News

The Archibald Arrives At TarraWarra

Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art award comes to Victoria, featuring portraits of 51 subjects.
Miriam McGarry

Interiors

Apartment Life, Furnished Right!

Simone Haag Interior Design transforms a tiny apartment in Clifton Hill into a fun and functional space.
Miriam McGarry

Gardens

A Robust Rooftop Garden In Rozelle

Klaus and Anne Schindhelm share their expansive apartment 'backyard' with spectacular water views!
Georgina Reid
  12 hours ago

Creative People

The New Australian Furniture Brand That ‘Won’t Break The Bank’

The new Peninsula furniture range by Jake Williamson aims to make local design accessible.
Lucy Feagins
  4 hours ago

Architecture

A Modern Country Home Inspired By The Aussie Shed

The Wensleydale by Byrne Architects is the epitome of luxe, contemporary country living - and you can stay here!
Miriam McGarry

Shopping

Ten Things Lucy Loved At Maison & Objet In Paris!

Lucy shares the top ten picks from her whirlwind trip to Paris, for Maison & Objet, the premier trade fair for decoration, design and lifest...

Interiors

A Swedish Summer Cottage In South Australia

Emma Read and Sarah Hall of My Sister And The Sea create a cosy cottage getaway on the edge of the Innes National Park.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

The Art Of Daydreaming, Captured In A New Exhibition By Kat Macleod

Inside ‘Reverist’, a new body of work that goes on show at Lamington Drive tonight!
Elle Murrell

Art

Influential Australian Women Star In National Portrait Prize Shortlist

Nova Peris, Magda Szubankski, Annabel Crabb and other icons grace the paintings in the running for Australia's richest art prize, the 2019 D...
Elle Murrell

TDF Design Awards

The Emerging Designers In The Running To WIN At The TDF Design Awards

Seven of Australia's most accomplished new designers and emerging design studios, in the running to WIN at TDF Design Awards!

Studio Visit

The Story Behind Our One-Of-A-Kind Awards Trophies

How glass artist Amanda Dziedzic created the exquisite glass trophies we'll be awarding to the TDF Design Award winners tonight!

Modernist Australia

A Robin Boyd Bushland Block Up For Sale!

A classic home by Australia's most loved modernist architect, the 'Uglow House' in Montmorency is on the market for a steal!
Patricia Callan

TDF Design Awards

And Winners Of The TDF Design Awards Are...

After celebrating last night at our fabulous awards ceremony, we are so excited to announce the WINNERS of the TDF Design Awards 2019!

Similar Stories

Architecture

Twin Peaks = Twice The Appeal

Step aside David Lynch, Benn and Penna Architects have designed a dual delight.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Truly Transformative Cottage Conversion

Studio Prineas breathe new life and light into this compact home in Cammeray, New South Wales.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Thoroughly Tactile Terrace

Bringing new light and life to a narrow North Fitzroy home, with Olaver Architecture.
Miriam McGarry