Balmain House

Context and Brief
The brief was to expand an existing 2 bedroom house for a family of 5 that was largely sharing many of the existing spaces within the house. The client, a builder and his family wanted to undertake construction of the house while they were still living in it.

Despite prior removal of much of the original federation period ornamentation from the front of the house, it was important to retain the ‘single house’ appearance of the pair of semi-detached dwellings. Cost of construction was to be minimised, and much of the labour was to be undertaken by our builder client directly.

The original ground floor within the existing footprint of the house was retained in its entirety. Only a small portion of the house was added to the rear, providing a living area, liberating the existing living area for dining alone. Despite the minimal footprint and opportunity, a generously scaled and lit, north facing living room was created, opening out to a paved courtyard.

The main bedroom, a generous study, and a bathroom were located on a new upper level. A short corridor was accommodated below the existing ridge, while the stair from the floor below was also located below the existing roof line thereby not only minimising the extent of construction and cost but also the bulk of the building which is of general concern to Council. This approach was only possible through careful measurement and understanding of the original building’s structure in order to properly explore the possibilities. The bedroom, bathroom, and study are generously scaled and well lit spaces resulting from an inverted skillion, which from the street, belies the scale of the rooms below it and preserves privacy to/from neighbours.

Design Outcome
The strategy not only satisfied the client’s tight budget and approval from one of Sydney’s most contentious Councils, but allowed the project to be undertaken in two distinct stages minimising disruption to the inhabited house. The first stage involved extending the ground floor before knocking out the back wall of the house. The second involved construction of the upper floor, without opening it to the ground floor during construction until the prefabricated stair was inserted.

Despite the upper level being intended for use by the parents for the bedroom and study, the whole family initially moved into the upper level – refer photos. Feel free to make your own assumptions.