The client wanted a sanctuary for yoga and meditation, encompassing a small retail component in a generic commercial building between two busy streets. Design challenges included: the entry off a bland commercial lobby, the ubiquitous office lighting, and a courtyard overlooked by offices and apartments.
To focus attention away from the commercial context, the space was lined with a cocoon of aromatic timbers, borrowing from Japanese and Scandinavian spa design – where walls and ceilings are cedar or birch. The cocooning effect begins at the threshold.
The floor is birch plywood. Walls and ceilings are lined with battens of western red cedar, unifying the space and concealing pipelines to air-conditioning, sprinklers and lighting. A tall spine of timber cabinetry with sliding battened doors screens out the office lobby and stores yoga mats, cushions and props. Battening skips over the windows to Oxford Street to diffuse light and screen out the street, while the courtyard has become a sheltered oasis with timber-decked terraces and mature trees.
A typical semi layout of dark rooms poorly organised was re-engineered to become a home of arrivals and transitions, comfort and containment, serenity and a sense of nature.
Its terraced front garden of flowering natives steps up to an entry platform that doubles as a sunset deck. Inside, the ‘boot room’ begins the sensory journey – its coir carpet invites ‘shoes off’ to feel floors of timber and concrete further on. A spine of plywood joinery along the party wall baffles sound and stores everyday ‘stuff’. Bay windows in original front bedrooms pop into a side path for little nooks of light. Upstairs in the master suite, ocean views are filtered and framed for privacy.
Landscape is woven into the building, from the first-floor roof garden, to the living room courtyard that funnels light and nature (a coastal tea tree) into the core of the house. A small rear lawn and view of the barn-like garage/studio is framed by a concrete plinth that doubles as both step and seat for the sun-bathed sunken lounge.
Nothing is painted externally – the cedar cladding will silver in the sun, while the wattles, bottlebrush and banksia flourish.
Re-engineering of this top-floor apartment saw all interior walls removed within the existing 68 square-metre envelope. Roof space was lined for the new master bed and bathroom, and a cost-effective palette of plywood, lovingly crafted, used to organise the downstairs space and harmonise with original elements for a light, contemporary home.
For the bedroom and study, two plywood pods were inserted either side of the entry, separated by a central passage leading to the open-plan living area. Lounge, TV and play space are at to side, with kitchen / dining to the other. All kitchen services and storage are concealed in doors at the back of one pod, while TV, toys, books and more are stored in cupboards behind the second pod.
Original pine floorboards were bleached and sliding sash windows were replaced with cedar-framed pivoting panels to open more generously to the light, street and district views. Two white bathrooms were added: one downstairs, one in the attic where a white egg-shaped bathtub tucked into the window looks out to sea.