Sustainable Homes

A Peaceful + Sustainable Sydney Home Designed To Do ‘More With Less’

The ethos behind this new build in Sydney’s north was to achieve more with less, which extends to both the house’s style and sustainability.

With this mantra in mind, owners Laura and Jono Metcalfe engaged architects Trias to build a ‘peaceful’ family home on a stretch of empty land subdivided from Laura’s grandparents’ house in Chatswood.

The resulting Draped House is all-electric, features a 7.7kw solar system, and has been passively designed around beautiful gum trees to capture natural sunlight, ventilation, and offer an overwhelming sense of warmth — without relying on artificial heating and cooling.

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling

Annie Portelli

Supported by Momentum Energy

Inside the beautiful Chatswood home called Draped House by architecture firm Trias.

The home features locally-sourced Australian hardwood timber windows and joinery.

Owners Laura and Jono Metcalfe with their dogs, Nessie and Kip.

Concrete and sandstone floors act as a thermal mass that helps warm the home.

A timber screen provides shade to the living room.

The house divides into two main wings: living is placed to the south, while sleeping steps down to the north.

Trias were inspired by the early projects of Robin Boyd, whose efficient and economical designs defined a generation of suburban life.

‘Whenever we’re asked how we’d describe the home, we always say it’s peaceful’ – Laura Metcalfe

Each part of the building has been designed to suit its orientation.

The living room receives prime northern sun.

The courtyard.

Sliding doors open to the outdoor deck.

The sloped roof makes the spaces feel open and airy.

Interiors are lined with spotted gum.

All rooms enjoy ample natural light and good cross-ventilation.

The passive design has also provided plenty of financial savings, as the house consumes less than the average one-person household.

Steps into the living room mark where the sandstone base meets concrete flooring.

One of the cosy bedrooms.

The palette of timber, gumtree greys and eucalypt greens helps the home blend into its surrounds.

A sunken bath sits hidden beneath a timber shower platform in the bathroom!

The courtyard features a fabric cloth that can be drawn down for additional shade.

Greenery envelops the exterior.

Christina Karras
Editorial Styling

Annie Portelli

10th of November 2023

Chatswood, NSW/Cammeraygal Country

When Laura and Jono Metcalfe got the opportunity to build a new home in a tree-lined cul-de-sac of Chatswood, they knew it had to embrace nature at every turn.

‘It feels like you’re miles away from metropolitan Sydney when you’re really just a 20-minute train trip away,’ Jono says. ‘We were keen to achieve more with less, so we asked for a modest home that showcased natural, locally-sourced materials and achieved quality of space through volume and natural light rather than through square metres.’

The result is their light-filled three-bedroom house designed by Trias architects. With a square floorplan expertly weaved around established trees, an angled roof that mimics the natural slope of the site, the peaceful house also hides a series of thoughtful sustainable features that help eliminate the need for things like air-conditioning! Here’s how the efficient 129-square-metres house came to life, in just 10 months.

Why did you decide to take a sustainable approach to the build?

Sustainability was part of our initial brief when we approached Trias. We’re aware that building can be a wasteful process and we were keen to minimise our environmental impact as much as possible — both through consideration of the design, materials and through investment in sustainable technologies.

What were some of the challenges did you face? Were there any unexpected surprises?

We were incredibly lucky to be able to work with the most incredible architects, Trias and builder, Arc. They made the design and build process seamless and stress-free. We had no prior experience of renovations or builds, and having watched a few Grand Designs episodes, we expected the worst — running out of money, enormous delays and strained relationships. Instead, we experienced a collaborative and considered design process that made us feel heard and involved at every stage, and an efficient, problem-free build characterised by transparency, excellent planning, and thoughtfulness.

Tell us about the sustainable elements of your new home?

The small footprint home is oriented to capture light and warmth at ideal times of day across the year, and it features double-glazed windows throughout, timber screens and a shade cloth for shading, a 7.7kw solar system, 10,000L water tanks that run to toilets, laundry and garden. It’s also all-electric, with hot water supplied via an electric air-sourced heat pump, and we have an electric induction stove.

What are the main materials have you used for the build?

Recycled timbers are used for the doors and windows; timber cladding is a locally-sourced Australian hardwood; concrete and sandstone floor for thermal mass to help stabilise temperatures; and fibre cement sheeting for cladding in sections of the home. This is both a very robust cladding material, and reflects the gumtree greys of the surrounding gums.

Did the inclusion of sustainable materials/elements impact the budget for the build at all? 

We decided early on to invest in sustainable elements in our home. For some decisions, this was a cost-saving. For example, the decision to have a concrete floor rather than a timber floor was an overall saving. Similarly, the fibre cement sheeting is a relatively affordable cladding option. For other decisions, this was an intentional investment. For example, the recycled hardwood windows and doors, the Australian hardwood timber cladding and sandstone flooring. There are more affordable window, door, cladding and flooring options but these elements come together not just to offer sustainability but solidity and value to the home.

Were there any sustainable elements you wanted to include but couldn’t? 

We hoped, and still plan to, install a solar battery. We were able to set up the required cabling to prepare for installation but found the price of the batteries a little prohibitive when we got to it towards the end of the build.

What do you love most about this home now?

Whenever we’re asked how we’d describe the home, we always say it’s peaceful. It sits quietly on the land, it’s beautifully temperate at all times of year, it’s flooded with natural light and soaring ceilings and warmth imbues its materials and spaces.

Having now lived in the home for a while, how does it compare to living in a home without these sustainable features?

It’s night and day. Beyond the cost-savings, it’s amazing to have the house do all the work (and so efficiently) without having to think about artificial and expensive solutions such as air-conditioning and heating. We love that we’re minimising our impact on the environment and using just what we need.

What’s been an important lesson you’ve learnt during this process?

We didn’t realise the efficacy and impact that consideration of orientation, window placement, double glazing and cross-ventilation would have in terms of maintaining a steady temperature in the home. Visitors often ask where the air-conditioning vents are because the home does such a good job of staying cool in summer and warm in winter. That good design is critical! We couldn’t have done any of this without our architects and our amazing builder. All that this house achieves and embodies is thanks to their creativity and expertise.

Story produced in partnership with Momentum Energy. Momentum Energy are owned by Australia’s largest renewable energy generator. Sign up to a greener power company.

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