The Double Life House by Breathe Architecture sits unassumingly on a Surry Hills St, tucked in a row of double-storey Victorian terraces. At a glance, the hundred-year-old building looks completely in keeping with its historic setting, and consistent with its neighbours. It is only once the front door is opened, that the ‘double life’ of this home is revealed.
Designed for two self-proclaimed introverts, design architect Jeremy McLeod and project lead Daniel McKenna considered the spatial and sonic qualities that would create a calm and serene home, ‘a true place of retreat.’ This was achieved through an initial process of ‘softening the outside world’ by stepping off the street into a library of black joinery. Behind the book shelving lies a hidden entertainment room, concealed/revealed by a pivoting artwork – a true introvert’s inner lair!
Within a relatively small footprint, the renovation creates a various concealed, restorative spaces for the owners. The home follows a spatial plan of key moments, the architects describe as moving from ‘façade, to transformation, to cape’ and then finally to the ‘fortress of solitude.’ Has solo ‘down time’ ever sounded so heroic?!
However, in addition to introducing a cave-like sense of protection, the architects also worked to connect the home with the outside world. The narrow home was opened up at the rear to a north-facing courtyard, to welcome natural light into the compact property.
Materially, the building remains true to its 100-year-old identity, and the architects ensured that the process ‘stripped back, expressed and exposed the layers of existing building fabric.’ They describe the Double Life House as an exercise in ‘building more with less’ and aimed to introduce only low embodied energy, recycled and locally sourced materials.