Brunswick West House is a small-scale, 50-square-metre alteration and addition to a Californian Bungalow home. The addition forms a low-volume, compact intervention on the project’s site, that aims to re-engage the home with the generous north-facing garden beyond.
Project name: BRUNSWICK WEST HOUSE
Architect Name: Taylor Knights
The modest nature of the project called for simple, incisive moves that would sidestep the need for an arduous and costly re-configuration of the existing home. In turn, our strategy looked to repurpose an ivy-lined sideway, creating a new, central entry for the home. This approach enables the home to operate succinctly in two halves: the original rooms now accommodate more private activities, while the addition forms its new social heart. These new living spaces are arranged in and around three sculptural masonry walls, creating nooks and reveals within the open plan – spaces that could offer a place to sit and share with family, or retreat within at other times.
Central to concept was to create a space that would be a truthful reflection of the client’s eclectic and playful sensibility. Pragmatically, it was essential to establish better connections between the new primary living spaces and the garden beyond.
Working in quite demanding industries, our clients ultimately wanted to create a calm and comfortable space to retreat within. Also essential to the brief was to create moments of privacy and seclusion within the open plan. In response, our strategy was to arrange these spaces in and around three sculptural masonry walls, curating view lines across the space and creating nooks and reveals within the open plan of the addition – spaces that could offer a place to sit and share with family, or to withdraw to at other times to read a book by the garden window.
For the client, creating a space that would also accommodate their diverse collection of artwork and literature was also an essential part of their brief – a family favourite being the much-loved print of Kandinsky’s ‘Upward (Empor)’, 1929. This offered an opportunity for us to draw upon some of the artwork’s beautiful geometric and tonal elements, which in turn formed a reference for the interior palette within the new pavilion space.
We were originally introduced to the client as a colleague of a personal connection. They had long wanted to rethink the back section of the original house – which true to its heritage, was a rabbit-warren of compartmentalised rooms, that ultimately had very poor visual and physical connection to the garden beyond. After 10 years of living in the original house – and learning all the things they loved about the house (and were happy to leave behind) – they approached us in 2015.
Recalling our first site visit, we were also quite taken with the vegetation on the property that the client had planted – especially the lush, ivy-lined fence in the sideway, and the formidable vegetable garden – we were keen to explore how we could pull these existing elements into the project!
As with many projects of this scale, making incisive moves early on is essential to managing the design and construction process. From the beginning, the project was always about achieving ‘quality over quantity’, and our client was keen to follow through on this idea. As a result, we looked to avoid significant (and potentially fiddly) reconfiguration of the existing internal spaces by repurposing the generous ivy-lined sideway, creating a lush and unassuming new entry point at the centre of the home. This approach enables the home to operate quite cleanly and disparately in two parts of a whole: the existing rooms now accommodate bedrooms, while the addition forms the new social heart of the home.
The key sustainability driver in this project was to produce a highly efficient, low – volume addition that ‘did a lot with very little’. Simple moves were also made to re-orientate living spaces towards the north, and by introducing eaves to block the sun in summer and allow light into the space in winter. The space can also be naturally ventilated, with large openings along the northern façade and high-level openings to the south of the new pavilion space.
The unique floor treatment (which is essentially a topping screed) also enabled us to include a two-pour concrete slab method, allowing us to insulate between the two slabs, and thereby making the space highly thermally efficient.
Energy efficient glazing and sustainable timber selections have also been used throughout the project.