Described by its creators as an architectural jewellery box, the Concrete Blonde house unfolds to reveal its gems from within a tight five-metre-wide block behind a heritage facade in Sydney.
Principal Architect Shaun Carter, of Carter Williamson Design, said devices like courtyards or light wells played a big role in overcoming the design challenges of making such a narrow internal space feel generous and inviting - while still maintaining the heritage exterior and its place, aesthetically, within a row of eight homes from the same era of Annandale cottages.
From the modest heritage facade, the updated cottage unfolds to a generously spaced home, expressing warmth through earth tones, natural materials and well-captured natural light.
"The keyhole void, or that lovely little curved slot that sits above the living room, is designed to grab the northern light and pull it all the way down through about four metres of building so that it gets this beautiful relief of skylight.
"But it's not just the light itself, it's how you frame that light and that really provides this endlessly fascinating view up to this light source almost like this celestial light coming down, that I think really adds to the beautiful qualities of being within that space," Carter said in a video about the property.
Design team architect Ben Peake, who worked in collaboration with builder Andrew Burton, said the clients' mindfulness for waste reduction, initially led to a reluctance to renovate.
"Though this dissipated once we introduced a notion of quality materials that would last as long as those removed from the century old house, embodying the notion of 'build it once, build it right'," Peake said.
The use of a heavy material palette of concrete, marble and brickwork allowed Concrete Blonde to effortlessly and naturally regulate temperature in both summer and winter months, reducing the need for air conditioning.
The concrete and brick were complemented through the use of custom timber furniture by Crafty Kabinets, and custom tables designed by Will Brennan.
The kitchen bench transitions seamlessly to bench seating and dining in the kitchen to maximise space and function.
"Greens throughout Concrete Blonde are a nod to the native gumtrees swaying in the backyard, the home's former kitchen colour, and memories of our clients' extended family homes in Greece," Peake said.
Living spaces flow into the home's kitchen and dining area, black sliding-glass doors dissolve away to connect the kitchen to the rear courtyard.
"To facilitate light, a tile lined and plant-filled courtyard is the mediator between the home living and private spaces, one side addressing the main living area, the other addressing the bathroom and stairs."
The main bathroom contains a hidden laundry and the individual functions of the space - toilet, basin and shower - were subdivided into micro-spaces by curved tiling.
"These small gestures hug you as you use the space, diving the large room into smaller spaces," Peake said.
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"This project is special for the variation moments and stories that our client brought to the home.
"For example, a bag of glass marbles supplied by the client were placed onto the concrete floor during construction, and later polished down to reveal their colours next to the river pebble aggregate."
This adds to the idea of Concrete Blonde as a jewellery box, where special moments and experiences sit comfortably inside a beautiful space for safekeeping.
- With architecture resource BowerBird