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A Compact Modern Treehouse In Otford, NSW

Architecture

In the words of Barnacle Studio, the home affectionately known as ‘Jims’ is ‘big enough to throw a party, but snug enough to contain a man and his dog.’

This somewhat simple brief drove the creation of the new permanent residence on a recently subdivided block in Otford, NSW (located roughly halfway between Sydney and Wollongong).

Barnacle Studio designed a small home elevated on steel legs (limiting disturbance to the natural ground) to form a contemporary treehouse, adopting the construction methodology of industrial and farm sheds to minimise costs.

12th May, 2022

The brief for ‘Jims’ was to create a simple residence with minimal impact to the home’s existing, bushy site in Otford, NSW (about 50 kilometres south of Sydney). Photo – Katherine Lu

Inspiration for the design came from treehouses and ‘tree dwelling organisms.’  Photo – Katherine Lu

The relatively compact footprint (72 square metres on a 1015 square metre site) was driven by the client’s needs, budget, and the environment.  Photo – Katherine Lu

Materials incorporated throughout include fire-resistant blackbutt, corrugated metal and fibre cement sheet. The interior palette of oriented strand board and plywood was also partly influenced by the home’s construction.Photo – Katherine Lu

The interior palette of oriented strand board and plywood was also partly influenced by the home’s construction. Photo – Katherine Lu

The project became an exercise in standard structural dimensions and repetition, borrowing the methodology of industrial and farm sheds to keep costs down. Photo – Katherine Lu

The vertically-oriented dwelling was perched on steel legs to carefully avoid most of the significant eucalypts on site. Photo – Katherine Lu

Leafy views from the upper-floor bedroom. Photo – Katherine Lu

Materials are bushfire resistant. Photo – Katherine Lu

The deck to the north doubles as a bridge to the shed roof turned vegetable garden. Photo – Katherine Lu

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 12th May 2022

‘Jim was interested in pursuing more industrial notions of space and construction, exploring the rudimentary, and was less interested in traditional domestic expectations.’

The brief provided to Barnacle Studio for ‘Jims’ was to create a simple residence with minimal impact to the home’s existing, bushy site in Otford, NSW (about 50 kilometres south of Sydney).

‘With a small budget, Jim was interested in pursuing more industrial notions of space and construction, exploring the rudimentary, and was less interested in traditional domestic expectations. Otherwise it was a fairly open brief,’ says Morgen Figgis, architect at Barnacle Studio.

Inspiration for the design came from treehouses and ‘tree dwelling organisms.’ Morgen explains, ‘Animals with skinny legs (birds, insects) seemed somehow influential. Industrial structures depicted in photo books by Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher were also a key reference point.’ 

The resulting home’s relatively compact footprint (72 square metres on a 1015 square metre site) was driven by the client’s needs, budget, and the environment.  In response, Barnacle Studio designed a vertically-oriented dwelling perched on steel legs to carefully avoid most of the significant eucalypts on site.

The project became an exercise in standard structural dimensions and repetition, borrowing the methodology of industrial and farm sheds to keep costs down. ‘The construction process was really fun, inventive and creative,’ says Morgen. ‘We worked really closely with the builder Greensmith & Co. on the detail and installation of the portal frame and flat pack nature of its construction.’ Materials incorporated throughout include fire-resistant blackbutt, corrugated metal, and fibre cement sheet. 

The interior palette of oriented strand board and plywood was also partly influenced by the home’s construction. ‘With most panels being workshop constructed and transported, they had an internal skin for strength that we retained as the final finish,’ says Morgen.

Among Morgen’s favourite elements of the project is the deck to the north that doubles as a bridge to the shed roof turned vegetable garden. ‘We also enjoy the simplicity and clarity of the south elevation and how it conveys the building’s humbleness amongst the overpowering height and presence of the gums.’

The ideal home for a quaint, leafy village.

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