Sustainable Homes

This Mosman Home Embraces Nature With An Architectural 'Garden Room'

House for BEES by Downie North is an architectural addition for a Mosman home designed to make the most of its unusually deep backyard, complete with a native beehive.

The architects observed how the family enjoyed outdoor living and sought to replicate that with a ‘garden room’, reminiscent of a picnic rug laid under a protective canopy.

Using angled rooflines, reclaimed materials and passive design principles, the new living area harness Sydney’s natural harbour-side breezes, allowing the owners to enjoy the garden all year round.

Christina Karras

The was created in response to the Mosman home’s gardens and environment.

An acronym of the clients’ names, and a reference to their native bee hive, House for BEES is a moniker that encapsulates the client focused for a family of four to their Federation home.

Sliding doors completely open the living space to the outdoors!

Kitchen, living and dining spaces are lightly contained by a floating roof, folded to capture northern light and facilitate the capture of easterly breezes.

A third bedroom and study were ‘reclaimed’ in the footprint of the original lean-to, and demarcate the transition zone between original and new addition.

As avid cooks and entertainers, the owners sought to create a large kitchen and informal dining and family area that supported a ‘no fuss’, casual approach to living.

The structure and use of steel has been refined to a minimum, to create a material lightness and reduced carbon footprint.

A folded roofplane cranks up to the north to capture winter northern light, as air moves over the ridge. The concealed ventilation in the eaves then drags this air inside to passively cool the house!

Skylights enhance the light and airy feel of the interiors.

The open-plan kitchen spills out into the dining area.

And it’s just as magical at night as it is day!

Christina Karras
30th of May 2023
Interior Decoration + Landscape

In this renovation of a Mosman house, designing for the site and environment was just as important as designing for the family who lives there.

House for BEES gets its name for its direct response to nature and the owner’s garden, with its own native beehive. But it’s also a perfectly personalised home for the clients, Sarah and Evan, parents to Barney and Eddie — whose names spell out the acronym referenced in the project’s title.

Downie North principal Catherine Downie says the owners approached her team to create a new addition for their single-level Federation home, in replace of a lean-to with a dated ‘70s kitchen, meals area and playroom and a garden that felt ‘overshadowed’ and closed off.

‘The house as it was kept getting in the way of being able to enjoy the landscape,’ Catherine says.

‘The beauty of the site was the unusually deep backyard where the clients and children would spend the majority of their time living, cooking and playing in the garden.

Tasked with creating a passively operated home that harnessed the elements and embraced the outdoors, Catherine says the 65-square-metre addition was conceived as a ‘garden room’.

For the sake of both sustainability and budget, they retained as much as possible of the existing house before creating new kitchen, living, and dining spaces at the rear. These spaces are ‘lightly contained’ by a floating roof made from aluminium, folded to capture northern light and easterly breezes. A concealed ventilation in the eaves then drags this air inside the house, passively cooling irrespective of the weather.

‘We love the simplicity of sitting under a canopy with a beautiful garden around you, enjoying good food with friends,’ Catherine explains. ‘Large sliding doors retract to completely dissolve the boundaries between inside and out.’

The casual and comforting living areas balance the architectural lines with cork flooring, chosen for its softness and environmental credentials. Reclaimed materials were another important part of the design, as Sarah personally hand-cleaned all the reclaimed bricks from the demolition of existing walls so they could be used in garden pathways. In addition to the lightness of its design and footprint, Catherine says the house benefits from 18kW of solar panels, two 5000L rainwater tanks and the lush edible garden, where abundant fruit trees and flowering plants provide food and shade to the property’s bees and visiting nature.

‘The house can open up to host quite a large garden party or be beautiful place to enjoy a quiet cup of tea,’ she adds. ‘The house encourages an awareness of the seasonal changes, watching native birds enjoying the garden as well as being a family focused place to enjoy each other’s company.’

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