Dulwich Hill House 2

Context & Design Brief
The brief was relatively simple: introduce an open living area more connected to the yard, provide 3 bedrooms, a separate living area for the children, and a larger garage. The existing free standing Federation house included only 2 bedrooms, a living room with a combined dining and kitchen area downstairs, and an uninhabitable attic (for storage). A driving principle in the design was to retain as much of the original Federation building which our clients were fond of for its character, and paralleling this approach with a strategy to minimise construction costs.

An unusual site due to it’s shallow depth but generous width has the existing garage and ‘backyard’ alongside the existing Period dwelling, with a small deck sandwiched between the back of the house and rear boundary fence. The proportions of the site presented several challenges with regard to optimising the use of the site and mitigating the associated impacts on neighbours.

Design Approach
The main strategy for the reorganisaton of the ground floor was to drop the floor level at the rear of the house and build out the western corner of the site to configure the house as an “L” shape; enabling a northern aspect, protection from cold southern breezes, and a direct connection to the garden from the new living areas. This strategy also establishes better visual and acoustic privacy between the house and the rear neighbours. Retaining the existing structure and roof over the rear portions of the existing house creates an interesting relationship, where the new roof extends downwards from existing roof faces ‘fusing’ the new with the old and blurring the distinction between them. The original exterior brickwork becomes a feature within the new parts of the house.

The roof over the garage is diminutive to the original house but shares a similar character to the new and distinctive southern roof portion; opening up to the north for sunlight, or in the case of the garage, providing some additional storage space. A new gate adjacent to the existing house provides a second front door with a sky-lit clerestory. The new gate provides direct access to the courtyard and the opportunity to greet guests at the new living room (without passing through the rest of the house).

The new first floor addition springs from the existing attic space. By using a portion of the existing attic within the footprint of the existing roof the visible scale of the elevated additions are reduced, and serve to reinforce the exterior character of the front portion of the house. A private suite is created for the parents by locating the main bedroom upstairs with its own ensuite and walk-in-robe. A horizontal window to this bedroom frames the leafy valley outlook.

The otherwise unutilised side passage along the eastern boundary provides a location for the new stairs, retaining the character of the front rooms of the existing house without the disruption associated with locating a new stair within the existing footprint. The form of the new stair follows the existing parapet wall, suppressing it from the street and mitigating visual impact and overshadowing to the neighbour.

Design Outcome
The approach retains the best parts of the original house, whilst the new additions reconfigure the house to maximise the opportunities of the site by reorienting the house to the north, creating a direct connection to the garden courtyard, and creating an elevated first floor to take advantage of district views.

The careful manipulation of the new elements blur the boundaries between the new and the old to provide a generous, distinctive yet harmonious house centred around a garden courtyard.