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A Collector's Cottage In Sydney's Suburbs

Architecture

A wunderkammer is a German term to describe a cabinet of notable curiosities. These cabinets of wonder were originally an entire room, displaying objects from natural history, geology, ethnography, archeology, paintings, works of art and antiques.

This home renovation by Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio in Bardwell Park (NSW) transforms a home filled which character and beautifully curated collections into a liveable, environmentally sustainable, and warm wunderkammer. As Mark explains, there was no stylist needed for this photoshoot, as the owners have created their own highly-personal cottage filled with a life-time’s worth of treasured collections.

26th September, 2019

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Photo – Tom Ferguson.

Miriam McGarry
Thursday 26th September 2019

Director Mark Szczerbicki of Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio explains that the design of this home in Sydney’s Southern suburbs was informed by a desire to maintain the original character of the house, and to provide a space to exhibit the owner’s much loved collections of artefacts, artworks, and ceramics. Owners Ben and Rose have spent a lifetime gathering their ‘cabinet of curiosities’, and Mark highlights that these collections are much more than mere ‘decor items’. ‘Their love for finding the beauty in the everyday object became the driver for the project’ he concludes.

The architects restored the existing cottage, and created a new addition to complement the characteristics of the old building. Branching out of the main living space, the addition expands the connection to the backyard and the small ceramics studio at the rear of the property. It steps down into the garden, creating a clearly delineated new space, that offers a link between the indoor and outdoors.

Inside, the link between spaces is marked by a finely crafted timber staircase, where one of the timber treads extends out to become the benchtop of the new kitchen. A seamless transition! The high ceiling and large skylight creates an surprisingly open and generous space, and takes advantage of the view of a large jacaranda tree overhanging the property from the neighbour’s backyard. (Ah, Sydney!)

The open shelving in the kitchen provides ample display and storage space for Rose’s curated selection of ceramics, and the architects reflected this passion in the custom-made splashback tiles and ceramic pendants in the dining space. Meanwhile, the music room provides a setting for a suite of instruments, and a display of drinking glasses from various op-shops around Sydney!

The design is also informed by a commitment to a low environmental impact. The home has no air conditioning, rather using passive systems of openings, ceiling fans, external shutters and a concrete slab to maintain thermal comfort throughout the year. A rainwater tank is connected to toilets and garden taps, and light fittings, doors, and bakelite handles were salvaged from the demolition and recycled in the renovation. Both inside and outside, materials were selected to age gracefully ‘with polished concrete in the extension and cedar cladding, which is left to weather and turn grey.’

This home successfully captures the owners’ personalities, and offers an opportunity to enhance the presence and presentation of their considered collections. Mark emphasises ‘the house is not “styled” for the photography – Rose’s natural knack for curating an ever-evolving display of object lifts the interiors from staged to authentic and personal.’

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