A Home Where Opposites Attract

It is often said that opposites attract… but how does this work in architecture? Downie North’s brief for the Dragon Kite Residence in Surry Hills was to create a space that could accommodate large parties, as well as providing a quiet writers nook.

Through simple and refined approaches, they have designed a home that is both dance-floor and book-club ready.

Miriam McGarry
Supports The Design Files

The southern wings of the home offer a quiet study and work zone. Photo – Kat Lu.

A quiet corner in the treetop apartment. Photo – Kat Lu.

The kitchen sits next to the living area, for easy party catering! Photo – Kat Lu.

Light rays through the staircase. Photo – Kat Lu.

Shadows play in the hallway. Photo – Kat Lu.

If you need some quiet time, just retreat to the study. Photo – Kat Lu.

The bedrooms and bathroom are also southern facing, away from the living zone. Photo – Kat Lu.

A room with a leafy view. Photo – Kat Lu.

Miriam McGarry
26th of July 2019

This treetop apartment in Surry Hills came with a brief to the architecture team at Downie North of needing to serve two very different needs for the family. The main living space needed to accommodate parties, dinners and shared living; but the apartment also needed to provide a quiet writers nook. Party cheer meets library quiet time!

The north facing living spaces were designed to be as open as possible, ‘so that walls weren’t dictating space, but furniture could set the scene.’ This flexible arrangement allows for a dance floor (!) by pushing aside the sofas, but also feels comfortable and cosy at more intimate times. While it’s a simple resolution, this design process went through many iterations before setting on this elegant and adaptable layout.

The quiet studio, media, library and bedroom areas of the apartment are tucked into the southern wings, away from the action of the living area. The architects explain that the requirement for a ‘very private, enclosed writer’s retreat with a close proximity to a library’ was achieved by creating a connection with a floor-to-ceiling pivot door.

Downie North were inspired by the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragan, who said ‘any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake’ and the team were ‘quite conscious of simplifying the interiors to create a welcoming sense of refuge. The designers also drew on the work of modern Japanese architects, and the interiors of Peter Zumthor’s Haldenstien house.

With so many diverse reference points, architects Daniel North and Catherine Downie admit it was initially ‘difficult to settle on the direction we should take.’ Through the process of simplifying, reducing and refining, an elegant outcome was reached, resulting in an apartment that serves the diverse needs of every resident – from book worm to party animal!

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