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A Sydney House Designed To Hero Its Calming Gardens

Architecture

Retallack Thompson were given a simple but unconventional brief when they were engaged to update this home in Sydney’s inner west – to create a design that prioritised the garden first, and the house itself second.

The old Federation brick bungalow was renovated to provide distinctive garden spaces in each room, built around a central courtyard famed by curved windows.

Step inside the light-filled abode, aptly dubbed ‘A House For A Garden’.

26th April, 2022

This house in Sydney’s inner west was designed to prioritise the garden first, and the house itself second. Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Photo by Ben Hosking.

Christina Karras
Tuesday 26th April 2022

Every element of this revamped Sydney home was driven by its garden. The owner had previously lived in a townhouse, and came to architects Retallack Thompson with a clear vision for her new home, which needed a lush garden that the retired academic could channel her energy into.

As a result, Retallack Thompson directors Jemima Retallack and Mitchell Thompson decided to take an approach that provided ‘more garden and less home’.

The Federation brick bungalow was in its original condition, located in a local council flooding area, and the house had many issues associated with poor drainage and rising damp.

Rather than significantly extending the home’s footprint, the architects decided to ‘reorder the rooms to improve their access to daylight’ and make way for new tranquil garden spaces, designed in collaboration with Rewild Studio.

Existing front bedrooms and the hallway were retained, while the bathroom and the original pine floorboards were refurbished and partially replaced. Towards the rear of the home, the living room was opened up to border a newly inserted courtyard at the centre of the new kitchen, dining and living room.

‘In all, only four-square metres were added,’ Jemima adds. ‘There are rooms which for 100 years never saw any light, and are now filled with sun. We love this aspect to working with older homes. It has transcended the original home into something that now suits its new occupants and the time we find ourselves in.’

The courtyard, with a curved glass and a concrete upturn, forms the heart of the home, connecting the living areas to the outdoors as a place for guests and family to gather. An olive tree that the client had been given 25 years ago also finally found a ‘place of permanence’ there after being transplanted from a pot in its new serene setting – completing the productive garden.

Other lush landscape additions include the front verandah’s brick balustrade, that has been reshaped to provide a morning spot to enjoy the sun, shaped paving and lawn for entertaining at the rear, and a fourth garden of stepping pavers and dracaena groves along the north facing side boundary.

‘[The gardens] will continue to morph but the house remains the constant. A backdrop to the living and the garden,’ Jemima explains.

See more of Retallack Thompson’s projects here.

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