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This Sydney House Takes The High Ground

Architecture

When Stafford Architecture were engaged to design a new house on an empty block in Sydney’s north, they could have easily disregarded the site’s natural elements and started afresh. 

After all, development approval from the council had already been granted, but Stafford Architecture weren’t interested in taking the easy road. 

Instead of cutting into the site’s sandstone ridge as proposed in the original approved plans, the architects recognised the site’s inherent beauty, and insisted that it be retained. 

The resulting home seemingly floats above this natural ridge, taking the property to new heights.

20th October, 2020

Stafford Architecture have designed this new house above a sandstone ridge in Seaforth, NSW. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

The clients were interested in open-plan living where family members are closely connected. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

A second level has been designed in line with the area’s height restrictions by creating a mezzanine over the kitchen that opens to a double height void. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

‘The sharp, pitched angular roof provides for the interior space and delineates the height restrictions, while giving a generosity to these rooms,’ says the architect Bronwyn Litera, senior associate at Stafford Architecture. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Instead of doors, zones throughout the living area are prominently defined by changes in floor height. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

A concrete blade wall acts as the house’s spine, effectively separating the living areas from the grounded private wing that ‘hugs’ the site. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

The house provides stunning views across Middle Harbour. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

A study nook above the living domain. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

The glamorous main en suite contains a screened, outdoor area. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

This outdoor area is screened for privacy and has a vertical garden. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

There’s even an outdoor shower! Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Interior materials reference natural elements on site. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Views to the water have been framed throughout. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

An outlook to the sandstone ridge has been created from the home’s interior. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

The pool offers its own stunning views. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Materials in the facade reference surrounding trees. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

The living areas sit above the site’s sandstone ridge. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Structural connections were made as minimal as possible, services were concealed within the voids of the existing sandstone, and the loose boulders were repurposed amongst the landscaping,’ says Bronwyn. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Vertical spotted gum battens mimic the look and rhythm of surrounding trees. Styling – Room on Fire. Photo – Tom Ferguson

Amelia Barnes
Tuesday 20th October 2020

‘We worked hard to maintain the rock as untouched.’ – Bronwyn Litera

When Stafford Architecture were brought on to design a new house in Seaforth (12 kilometres north-east of Sydney’s CBD), they were immediately taken with the site’s conspicuous sandstone ridge. 

Development approval (sought by a previous owner) had already been approved to cut into this natural feature, but Stafford Architecture had other ideas. ‘On visiting the site and experiencing the magic of this leafy corner with the incredible sandstone ridge, we could not fathom building on top of and cutting into this significant feature,’ says Bronwyn Litera, senior associate at Stafford Architecture.

Luckily their clients agreed, and the parties worked closely to deliver a home highlighting this unique feature.

The resulting design positions the home’s living areas above this ridge. ‘We worked hard to maintain the rock as untouched,’ explains Bronwyn. ‘Structural connections were made as minimal as possible, services were concealed within the voids of the existing sandstone, and the loose boulders were repurposed amongst the landscaping.’

The use of steel accentuates the lightness of the building above the sandstone outcrop, while vertical spotted gum battens mimic the look and rhythm of surrounding trees. ’The house is to feel weightless and airy for the inhabitant – somewhat of a treehouse floating in the canopy,’ says Bronwyn. A sharp-edged roof accent further highlights the sensibility of the rock below, and simultaneously draws the eye up to the tree canopy.

Internally, a concrete blade wall acts as the home’s spine, effectively separating the living areas from the grounded private wing that ‘hugs’ the site. Included in this latter component are the garage, bedrooms, and en suite containing a screened, outdoor area with a vertical garden. 

The most challenging aspect of this project was maintaining the site’s sandstone ridge, while complying with height restrictions, and not blocking views across Middle Harbour.  To overcome this, Stafford created a mezzanine over the kitchen, which opens to a double-height void over the living and dining areas.

It wasn’t easy, but Stafford have gone above and beyond to deliver a respectful and interesting home.

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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