A four-metre-wide terrace in Sydney’s Surry Hills has been transformed from a dark, cramped space into a light-filled home with clean lines and balanced proportions thanks to architecture practice Benn & Penna.
The new bedrooms and bathrooms are located above an open-plan living space that opens onto intimate garden spaces at either end of the property. In order to increase the liveable space in the house, these have been treated as outdoor rooms.
Downstairs, this meant extending the kitchen bench from inside through to the exteriors in one long, unbroken line. This creates a continuity between the spaces, unifying them into one large room that straddles interior and exterior, with Sydney’s warm weather allowing both interior and exterior to be used on a regular basis.
When the weather is bad, the folding glass doors can be closed, with the bench itself fitted with a folding mechanism so the bench can be divided by the doors or remain as one continuous element. When it rains, the bench is protected by a custom-made plastic cover that was made by a specialist boat supplier.
In the centre of the house, a perfectly proportioned stair in fine steel brings light in from a skylight above. While the design looks simple, the precision required for this symmetry made this a tricky task. “A huge amount of time was spent on getting the lines and angles right,” says Andrew Benn of Benn & Penna.
Outside, the back wall of the garden was the only space in the house to get direct Northern light, so a mosaic wall with reflective tiles positioned at a number of angles was created to catch the light and reflect it back into the house.
“It’s not every day a project gets that level of scrutiny,” says Benn. “The beauty of working with small spaces is that you can produce an immaculate result. It’s more like a big model than a small house.”
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