Sydney-based architectural practice Alexander & CO. are no strangers to dealing with period houses judging by the numerous Victorian terrace house renovations under their belt. For this project, a cliffside property in Sydney built in the 1990s, instead of dealing with a decrepit building fabric and cramped premises, principal architect Jeremy Bull had to contend with a new set of challenges, namely poor planning and disappointing views, plus high winds and lashing storms that complicated the construction process and the weather-proofing requirements – not to mention occasionally blowing furniture off the balcony.
Comprehensively reconfigured, the house was re-zoned into two sections, a garden-oriented zone accommodating the brouhaha of family life, and an ocean-facing zone conceived as a meditative haven for the adults. Softened by arched openings and curved glass walls, and complemented by lush vegetation, revamped patios and terraces, and a new pool, the building’s whitewashed exterior exudes subtle Mediterranean vibes, while the interior espouses a European vernacular aesthetic in reflection of the homeowners’ ancestry. Underpinned by a sense of openness and lightness, the five-bedroom home revels in handcrafted beauty and sculptural elegance, constituting in Bull’s words “a contemporary, materially rich and performative family dwelling”.
Dislocated from its views and gardens, the existing concrete-frame building was poorly planned so the renovation centred on reconfiguring the room layout to cater to the family’s lifestyle and redesigning the building envelope, adding and expanding windows and patio doors, in order to re-orient the interiors towards the ocean or the garden. Combined together these actions produced two distinct zones, the garden side where the family spends time together cooking and eating, and the ocean side, which includes the formal living room and master bedroom, rooms in other words where adults can congregate in peace to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. What the former lacks in views it makes up for in amenities with a breakfast nook, playroom, patio, garden and pool offering the children plenty of opportunities to enjoy themselves.
When it came to the interior design, Alexander & CO.’s signature mix of minimalist understatement, bespoke sophistication and handcraftsmanship is on full display. A monochromatic yet richly textured colour palette of white and greys is combined with natural materials like wood, marble and plaster that imbue the spaces with a sculptural sensibility. Timber veneers, hardwood floors and austere wooden furnishings convey a sense of Scandinavian modernism, while marble counters, washbasins and thresholds, along with arched openings, convey a sense of Neoclassical elegance, with hand-finished stuccos and stone flagged floors adding vernacular touches. A collection of contemporary furniture and vintage lighting softens the pared down interiors with rounded forms, handcrafted finishes and plush fabrics, further exemplifying the team’s talent for creating superbly crafted yet effortlessly relaxed spaces.