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

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.

This Week

Homes

A European-Style, Beachside Melbourne Apartment!

The 1920s St Kilda apartment of friends John Wares and Peter Papadopoulos has been completely reconfigured in a beautiful renovation.

News

Online Art Dealers Curatorial+Co. Open An IRL Gallery

Located in a 300 square metre warehouse, the Redfern gallery will offically launch with a female-led exhibition this Friday.

Father's Day Favourites

Shop Slick Homewares, Lamps + Designer Accessories For Father's Day With 10% Off From Cult!

Browse cult-status kitchenware and slick home accessories in this edit of sure-fire Father's Day hits from one of Australia's most iconic de...
Lucy Feagins

Father's Day Favourites

Browse These Father's Day Favourites With 25% Off Thames & Hudson Australia!

From iconic local architecture to nontraditional takes on Australian history, browse our top picks for Dad, with 25% off from Thames & Hudso...
Lucy Feagins

Studio Visit

Entering Lost Worlds With Oh Hey Grace Ceramics

Ceramicist Grace Brown explores dystopian landscapes and fallen civilisations in her debut solo show in Kyneton.
Sasha Gattermayr

Art

The Winners Of The 2020 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

We share highlights and winners from the country's most anticipated award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Breezy Waterside Oasis, Designed For Multi-Generational Living

Owner-architect Emili Fox of Fox Johnston transforms a derelict dwelling into her own light-filled family home in Sydney's Birchgrove.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Sophisticated, Modern Day Treehouse

A garden-immersed extension by Archier has turned this Victorian home in Coburg into a modern day treehouse.

Architecture

A Totally Transfixing Concrete Retreat

This contemporary family home in Kew by Architects EAT is totally secluded, yet bright, breezy and open!
Sasha Gattermayr

This Week

Architecture

A Timeless New Home In Ballarat, With Lake Views + Mid-Century Vibes

With American ‘Brady Bunch’ house vibes (!) this new home in Ballarat by Kennedy Nolan channels mid century design, with a sleek, contem...

On The Market

A Corner Store Turned Architectural Home Hits The Market In Brunswick

An 1883 shopfront turned architectural home with a pool and sauna is for sale in Brunswick!

Interiors

An Inspired Cosmetic Makeover Of A Perth Rental Property

This Cottesloe rental property has been majorly improved (with the landlord's agreement) by Ohlo Studio!

Homes

A Magical Alistair Knox-Designed Rental In Eltham!

The seriously dreamy 1970s rental home of Pop and Scott trade manager Lucienne Van Sebille, and her partner Sebastian.

News

The Magic And Art Of Beekeeping With Honey Fingers

Mud Australia is hosting an exhibition and in conversation event with legendary urban beekeepers Honey Fingers, moderated by artist Stanisla...
Sally Tabart

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Chrissy Lafian, Founder And Creative Director Of Suku

With teams in both Melbourne and Bali, Chrissy lets us in on how she runs the lifestyle brand she's built from scratch!

Interiors

A Crash Course In Renovating Your Own Home From Top To Bottom, With BuildHer Collective

Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon of BuildHer Collective bring us a new book containing all the info you need to embark on building or ren...
Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon

Gardens

A Slice Of Primeval Paradise In Bronte

Situated on a steep site in a sometimes blustery coastal location, the planting palette for this stunning garden in Sydney is both soft, and...

Gardens

A Cultivated Wilderness In Inner Suburban Melbourne

Legendary landscape designer Phillip Withers completes a layered, three-tiered garden around a Toorak home designed by Cera Stribley.

On The Market

This John Lautner-Inspired Sydney Home Is MAJOR House Goals (+ It’s For Sale)!

This dream house in Sydney's Castle Cove designed by Terroir architects and Pascale Gomes-McNabb is for sale!

Architecture

A Surprise Garden Brings This 'Pop-Up' Home To Life

Figr creates a unique language between architectural and landscaped spaces to truly maximise this small footprint home for a family of three...

Architecture

This Clever + Compact Bondi Home Feels Like A Never-Ending Holiday!

Fox Johnston architects managed to expand the footprint of this small and narrow Sydney site to create a generous, private haven!

Stays

The Fabulous New Store And Apartment From Colour Queen Chela Edmunds!

The Takeawei Ceramics founder shows us around her sunny new store in Fitzroy, and the cutest-ever apartment upstairs (yep, you can stay ther...

News

Extend The Lifecycle Of Designer Furniture And Lighting With Cultivated

Cult relaunches Cultivated during Melbourne Design Week – a buy-back, refurbishment and recycling service that aims to create a sustainabl...
Sponsored

News

Shop The Megan Park Archive Of More Than 10,000 Pieces!

Legendary fashion designer Megan Park has kept one of every piece she has designed over the last 22 years – and now, she’s opening h...

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Breezy Waterside Oasis, Designed For Multi-Generational Living

Emili Fox of Fox Johnston transforms a derelict dwelling into a light-filled delight for her own family home in Birchgrove.
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Sophisticated, Modern Day Treehouse

A garden-immersed extension has turned this Victorian home into a modern day treehouse.

Architecture

A Totally Transfixing Concrete Retreat

This contemporary family home in Kew by Architects EAT is totally secluded, yet bright, breezy and open!
Sasha Gattermayr

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 – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.