Royal PainRumour has it the Queen of Tonga lived in this solid red-brick house sitting squarely in the middle of Sydney, in leafy heritage Haberfield.
Formerly home to the Tongan consulate, (again, rumour has it) it’s not implausible. Visiting on a cold wintry day, David Welsh of Welsh + Major Architects and I were believers, happy to dream of coconut canopies and balmy breezes.
Welsh was employed by the home’s present owners to update the ”regal” residence, and address myriad issues. The unpretentious original single-storey 1920s Federation home was in good condition structurally, but had suffered through ill-conceived alterations, and needed some TLC and updating.
It didn’t connect with the garden and the configuration of rooms was unsatisfactory for a couple with young children.
The owners also wanted to resolve an unsympathetic two-storey 1960s addition. While it added a playroom on top and garage below, it robbed the house of natural light, and again, blocked access to the garden. Aesthetically, it sat as a “lump” that failed to match its neighbours.
This was compounded by its location – a high visibility corner block facing two busy streets.
“Our brief was to reconnect the house to the garden, creating both winter and summer garden spaces, accommodate a lap pool, create a series of flexible rooms that could be adapted to changing needs, and create a new hub to the house,” Welsh said.
Working from back to front, Welsh decided the 1960s addition had to go. The biggest challenge was the creation of a new hub that worked not only for the house, but with the street. Because of its corner location, the flow, functionality and aesthetics had to be resolved from all directions.
“We wanted to create a stitch in the streetscape; we couldn’t hide the new pavilion out the back as many new additions might, so we set out to integrate it with its Federation context,” Welsh said.
Of equal importance, he used a strong design solution with traditional materials used in a contemporary way to effect this. With the suburb awash in Marseille terracotta roof tiles, Welsh has created a new kitchen and dining pavilion featuring tiles not just on the roof but as wall cladding, and then combined this with raw galvanised steel and coloured glass.
The double-height pavilion sits nine steps below the original house to connect directly with the garden on both sides. Linking it to the house, is a study/living space overlooking the kitchen and offering views to the city skyline and pool.
Inside, Welsh repositioned a series of doors and windows connecting the house to the northern winter garden and south side summer garden, featuring the pool. The house’s history has been exposed, with no attempt to match brickwork.
See more at Domain’s Architecture Index.
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