A Light-Filled + Colourful Re-Working Of A Dark Sydney Terrace

When presented with a poorly orientated and pokey Surry Hills, NSW, terrace, Brad Swartz, director of Brad Swartz Architects saw only opportunity.

He and his team transformed the ‘classic rundown’ 4.1 metre-wide building into a home filled with light and space, drawing on the ‘unusually green feeling of the site’ to optimise a connection to the outdoors.

Now with the owners’ colourful art collection lining the walls and natural lighting filtering in from above, Brad calls it ‘a little oasis in what is a pretty dense part of Sydney’. Take a look below!

Bea Taylor

The terrace’s facade remains as it was.

The rear of the terrace opens out to the courtyard. The sunken lounge was the owners’ ‘very first’ request.

Artwork by Imbi Davidson from Jennings Kerr Gallery.

The kitchen connects to the dining room at the front of the home. Artworks by Sophie Sachs.

The kitchen. Artworks by Sophie Sachs.

The view from the dining room through the kitchen and out onto the courtyard.

The dining room.

Upstairs, the void brings light all the way through the home.

The kitchen. Artwork by Bonnie Porter Greene from Jennings Kerr Gallery.

Upstairs living room. Artwork to the left by Marie Carmen. Smaller artwork by Jaz (Franco Fasoli). Artwork on the back wall by Bonnie Porter Greene from Jennings Kerr Gallery.

The bathroom features pink tiles and Verde Guatemala marble.

Artwork on the back wall by Bonnie Porter Greene from Jennings Kerr Gallery.

View from the upstairs bedroom.

Bea Taylor
2nd of April 2024
Landscape design

Surry Hills, NSW / Gadigal Country

It’s not uncommon to come across an old terrace that presents lighting and spatial ‘challenges’ or ‘restrictions’ to its hopeful renovator.

This small terrace in Surry Hills, NSW, was such a house. The site, at just 4.1 metres-wide, was orientated west-east with a tall office building on its boundary to the north and an equally tall apartment block across a narrow lane to the east.

Luckily, Brad Swartz Architects ‘love working with restrictions’.

Despite its challenging orientation and size, the site, says architect Brad Swartz, ‘felt unusually green considering its dense inner-city location.’

The proposed renovation therefore aimed to amplify this. ‘We wanted to connect the back to nature,’ explains Brad. ‘Something that always feels amiss in terraces and often in the city.’

Whilst the front rooms on the ground floor — the dining and bedroom — largely remained intact, the architects re-designed and added to the back in order to maximise the site and sense of space.

A central void was installed with ‘lots of skylights’ to flood the home with natural light, while high ceilings and a sunken lounge added to the feeling of space inside.

To connect the home back to nature and maintain a sense of calm away from the busy city, the interior draws on an earthy palette of natural materials and raw finishes, including spotted gum flooring, burnished concrete and Verde Guatemala marble.

‘It feels light, bright and spacious, which is no small feat considering the narrow width, orientation and surrounding buildings,’ explains Brad.

Bright white walls reflect the natural light from above, while the owners’ impressive art collection adds colour, and offers a distinctive focal point within in each space.

But it’s the bathroom and dining room where more saturated hues take centre stage. In the dining, a luxurious forest green wraps the walls, whilst earthen pink tiles line the upstairs bathroom.

‘There’s a warmth to the home,’ says Brad. ‘It really feels like a little oasis in what is actually a pretty dense part of Sydney. But most of all, it feels fun. There’s a joy in the space with the artwork and architecture both working together to create a lot of beautiful moments in the home.’

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