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An Architect’s 'Treehouse' In The Heart Of Bronte

Architecture

Narrow, steep sites are notoriously difficult to design for, and to build on. The solution? Turn the house upside down!

That was how architect Madeleine Blanchfield approached the challenge of building her own family home, on a sloping block in Bronte Beach. By inverting the traditional floorplan of a two-storey house and placing the generous communal areas on the top floor of her narrow block, the owner-architect has created a light-filled family home that perfectly integrates functionality and form.

13th August, 2020

Sanders Air sofa from Voyager Interiors. ‘Little Petra’ chair by &Tradition from Cult Design. Coffee table custom designed by the architects. ‘Planet’ wall lamp from Hub Furniture. Atollo desk lamp. Artwork by Tamara Dean. Dining table custom designed by the architects. ‘Cloud’ rug by Edel Carpets from Whitecliffe Imports. Photo – Anson Smart.

Sanders Air sofa from Voyager Interiors. ‘Little Petra’ chair by &Tradition from Cult Design. Coffee table custom designed by the architects. Artwork by Tamara Dean. Dining table custom designed by the architects. ‘Cloud’ rug by Edel Carpets from Whitecliffe Imports. Photo – Anson Smart.

The back lounge also acts as a library. Photo – Anson Smart.

The long slick black table sits in front of the library wall, and was customised by the architects. Atollo desk lamp sits on top and flanked by Henry Timi SB 1901 chairs from Viabizzuno. Photo – Anson Smart.

Looking through from one lounge room to another. Planet’ wall lamp from Hub Furniture. Sanders Air sofa from Voyager Interiors. Photo – Anson Smart.

The marble dining table was custom designed by the architects. Nuura Miira 4 pendant light. Living Divani Era dining chairs from Space Furniture. Artwork by Paul Ogier. Photo – Anson Smart.

‘John John’ sofa by Poltrona Frau from Cult Design. Tulip coffee table by Eero Saarinen from Knoll. Bassam Fellowes circular counter stool from Living Edge. Womb armchair from Dedece. Photo – Anson Smart.

Nuura Miira 4 pendant light. Living Divani Era dining chairs from Space Furniture. Marble dining table was custom designed by the architects. Artwork by Camie Lyons. ‘John John’ sofa by Poltrona Frau from Cult Design. Womb armchair from Dedece. Photo – Anson Smart.

Womb armchair from Dedece. Artwork on back wall by Paul Ogier. Artwork on side wall by Camie Lyons. ‘John John’ sofa by Poltrona Frau from Cult Design. Tulip coffee table by Eero Saarinen from Knoll. Nuura Miira 4 pendant light. PK22 chairs from Cult Design. Photo – Anson Smart.

Wall cutaways and skylights at the top of the staircase. Photo – Anson Smart.

Looking from the main living room into the sitting room, and out to the garden beyond. Photo – Anson Smart.

The top of the staircase is flanked by windows and a skylight, allowing light to pour into the top floor from all angles. Photo – Anson Smart.

Is this THE staircase of 2020! Photo – Anson Smart.

Terracotta tiles line the bathroom floor. Photo – Anson Smart.

An Eames plywood chair from Living Edge in a bedroom. Photo – Anson Smart.

A view from the first level front courtyard into the master bedroom. Photo – Anson Smart.

Photo – Anson Smart.

The master bathroom. Photo – Anson Smart.

Landscaping surrounds this project from all sides, expertly designed and installed by Spirit Level Designs. Photo – Anson Smart.

The street frontage. Photo – Anson Smart.

The front gate is on street level, and guides the entrant up to the first floor entrance hall. Photo – Anson Smart.

Sasha Gattermayr
Thursday 13th August 2020

‘It is a beautiful space to be in. It inspires calm.’ – Madeleine Blanchfield

‘The Treehouse’ is the Bronte home inhabited by architect Madeleine Blanchfield’s young family, and designed by her architectural firm, Madeleine Blanchfield Architects.

It took years of planning and saving to finalise the blueprint for this home, by which time, Madeleine had her successful practice in Paddington to run! This extended planning period resulted in a rich and extensive design phase, followed by a quick, intuitive build. The best of both worlds!

Comprised of two storeys stacked atop a street-facing garage, the house makes the most of its compact footprint by chasing light vertically. The top floor houses a generous communal living zone, with two living rooms side-by-side. The informal lounge and library opens onto a patio garden at the back of the property, while the front living room is flanked by a kitchen and dining room in textbook open-plan fashion. These generous communal spaces take full advantage of the property’s lush treetop outlook.

‘The design was formed around capturing the most beautiful light at all times of day, and creating vistas through spaces so that there is always something (usually the garden!) in your frame of view,’ explains Madeleine. ‘The great benefit of living on the top floor is the ability to flood the spaces with light from skylights and high level windows.’

Descending the sculptural, spiral staircase (sidenote: Is this THE staircase of 2020?) deposits the inhabitant in the entrance hall. The sleeping quarters are located on this floor, appropriately buried amongst the verdant courtyards landscaped by Spirit Level Designs. This air of seclusion satisfied the family’s privacy considerations, and marks an ambient shift from public to private spaces.

Madeleine describes traditional Japanese architectural principles such as clarity of structure, streamlined craftsmanship and a sense of calm as fundamental inspirations to the design. These influences, paired with a clean, refined materials palette, bucketloads of natural light, and a strong connection to the outdoors from every room, make this a truly special and serene family home.

See more projects from Madeleine Blanchfield Architects here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net