Looking at this warm, serene Bondi home by Fox Johnston, you might not guess the difficulties the site originally presented.
For one, it was small, narrow and steep, with a public walkway on one side that presented privacy issues. It was also one of a pair of twin inter-war semi detached homes – a council approval nightmare. But with a few clever design solutions, Fox Johnston were able to pack a 212m2 floor plan over three storeys on this tricky 153.9m2 site, creating a private, compact, yet generous family home that feels worlds away from its bustling Bondi locale.
The brief for Fox Johnston was a small, distinctive, sustainable house for the clients, a couple who had already owned a home on the site for 10 years. They wanted a light-filled home that felt private, with options for a home office as well as a space for long stays from visiting overseas parents. The architect’s response was to go up, splitting the work, living, and sleeping zones across three deceptively expansive-feeling levels.
Enter from the street at ground level and you’ll find a home office, laundry and powder room. ‘The small ground floor section forms a solid plinth for the upper levels’, explains Conrad Johnston, co-director of Fox Johnston.
The middle level is where the main living spaces are, bookended by a front balcony and rear courtyard that are massive space-extenders. The open areas make the space feel a lot bigger than it actually is, offering primo indoor-outdoor living options by opening up completely at either end. A central courtyard divides the living room on one side and the dining area and kitchen on the other, an early idea the Fox Johnston team developed to ‘gather light’ and create a feeling of distinct zones rather than just being in one long room. ‘Our aim was to achieve a cohesive material language’, explains Fox Johnston associate Brad Phillips. ‘For instance, instead of breaking up the flooring from inside to out, the living room concrete floors continue out onto the balcony. We went to great length on the details, so with the balcony doors open, it feels like one space.’
On the top level you’ll find a main bedroom with an ensuite and a guest bedroom and bathroom, where the client’s parents can stay and enjoy their own space and privacy on long visits to Australia.
But the real knock-out feature of this small but mighty home is the curved wall of copper, wrapping the exterior on the home’s north-west side. Conrad considers the aesthetic of raw materials that age over time a hallmark of the Fox Johnston aesthetic – evidenced in this Bondi home. ‘It’s a big feature for the setting and the street. Next to a traditional semi we’ve attached this bold, curved copper wall on a tiny block’, says Conrad. ‘This sculptural element crowns and connects the entire site’.
The clients describe the experience of living here like ‘being on holidays’ – and we can totally see why!