It’s hard to believe an 1835 home on just a 40 square metre site can contain two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three outdoor spaces, but such is the power of this Surry Hills renovation.
When designer and Room on Fire founder Chloë McCarthy, and her partner Jesse McCallion of Belle Frederick Projects, purchased the pint-size sandstone home, the floor plan consisted of nothing more than a living room, kitchen, bathroom and courtyard on the ground floor, and a single bedroom above.
Chloë and Jesse saw potential to create a more spacious home on the same footprint, by converting the attic into an additional bedroom with an en suite, and laundry; and extending the first floor to accommodate the kitchen, dining, and living area.
‘The land size is only about 40 square metres (three metres wide internally), yet we were able to squeeze in 65 square metres of internal floor space, plus about 10 square metres of external space over the three levels,’ says Chloë.
Connections to nature have been integrated on every storey via a ground floor fern garden, first floor outdoor seating area, and upper floor balcony. The new main bedroom in the converted attic opens to the latter, complete with an outdoor shower, and views of the city skyline and Centrepoint Tower.
External curtains also conceal a laundry within the roof space, providing the most practical location in the home to dry washing.
The interiors are warm and textured, seeking to restore the original design of the Sydney sandstone home built in 1835. Over 100 years of paint and plaster have been removed to expose the original sandstone wall in the kitchen, and façade windows and front door recreated by Wayne Mavin based on archival images of the home.
New interior details include the study nook, the first floor banquette seating under the perforated metal attic stairs, and an overall palette of hardwearing natural materials intended to gracefully patina.
Tasmanian blackwood adds a cabin-like layer to the home, terracotta floor tiles invite calm, and microcement provides a sculptural quality to the ground floor bathroom.
A surprising moment revealed only to those in the know is the travertine mosaic-lined en suite concealed behind a wardrobe door.
Constructing the renovation was a laborious process due to the property’s minimal access with no rear lane.
‘For most of the job the only thing connecting the three levels was a single ladder. Over 30 tonnes were removed by hand up and down this ladder,’ says Chloë. ‘Similarly moving tools and materials around was like Tetris and this limited the number of trades that could be on site at one time… Every solid tallowwood floorboard had to be handled in through the small kitchen window and every brick had to be carried by hand up three floors via the ladder.’
The completed project is a masterclass in spatial planning and interior decoration. ‘The size and scale of the furniture also had to be very considered given the design is somewhat like being in a caravan,’ Chloë says. ‘Vintage Danish pieces were selected mainly for this reason and to add further character and patina to the space.’