This Multi-level Victorian Home is an Architect’s Playground
Alexander & CO’s Jeremy Bull explores materiality, built-in furniture, and the element of surprise in his family’s new coastal Sydney abode.
A multi-level home that is just as much a play on thoughtful joinery as it is a homage to architectural greats like Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn? That is how one might describe this ever-evolving Australian family home.
“It is actually a very simple, compact house but it is animated by the little narratives that punctuate it,” says Alexander & CO. principal architect and homeowner Jeremy Bull, who shares the 2,475-square-foot space with his wife, the firm’s marketing director Tess Glasson, and their four sons.
Built in Sydney’s Bondi Junction, an eastern suburb ten minutes from world-famous Bondi Beach, the early 1900s home has been carefully renovated and restored since it was purchased in 2010, and now includes four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a sunken lounge.
The multiple renovations—three in total over seven years—utilized materials that explore varying scale and texture from “the roaring 16-foot ceilings, polished plaster, stucco, pine timber, and Carrara [marble] in different size formats,” says Bull. The simple, reduced palette works well against the natural, lightweight framing and exposed joinery on cupboards and cabinets, as well as other storage spaces in a home. As the residence has developed over time, the couple have built in plenty of quirk.
“We have maximized the footprint and every inch of space, thus we have built-in as much joinery as we could,” explains Bull. In the sunken lounge, there are various oak and pine pieces concealing the television behind, while the kitchen utilizes white polyurethane for all of the cabinets. The laundry is also cleverly hidden.
The compact home, an unassuming terrace cottage from the street, is all about the element of surprise, revealing itself with a collection of volumes vastly different from its heritage front. Throughout the renovations, it’s been oriented around a rear gum tree and now spans four primary levels, through multiple series of steps that yield this unique plan. The first is for the kitchen, dining, and lounge, while the second is for the living area, the third for two bedrooms, a bathroom, and the master suite. Finally, the fourth contains an upstairs plywood loft to fit the growing family. “It’s a football safe space that could have relative privacy from the remainder of the house,” says Bull.
Then there’s the external storage room, built for skateboards, surfboards, and bicycles, and a sunken lounge with new joinery to cope with the wear from four rowdy boys. The home slopes toward the western garden and stairs, which “create small amphitheaters for sitting and watching handball or reading books,” Bull adds. That living space, which is surrounded by the courtyard, feels like sitting in a garden.
The interiors add pops of color to the overall neutral architecture and include treasured artworks and sculptural pottery from travels in India and Europe, a bespoke oak and leather banquette that fits the whole brood for mealtime, a Ligne Roset Togo Settee, and classic Eero Saarinen dining table.
The lesson? When it comes to renovations, building over time can sometimes be the way to go.
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