From unremarkable beginnings in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, House RV has been reimagined to create a retreat from the city, distinguished by its close and private relationship to the garden and two majestic fig trees.
A key problem with the original property was that the garden was dominated by a steep driveway – rising five meters above the street to the garage – that effectively rendered the garden unusable. Internally, the house had undergone several ill-considered renovations, rendering the internal plan quite haphazard (although the underlying structure was mostly in good condition).
The aim was to reorganise the front yard to create a tranquil garden and to make gentle yet practical modifications to the house’s layout. These modest structural changes greatly improve the plan and strengthen the relationship between the home and the garden.
Externally, the garage was relocated to street level and a garden extended across its roof. A retaining wall was built along the outside edge of the former driveway. This now provides a private garden podium above the street at the level of the house. The former garage has been transformed into a covered outdoor space opening to the pool. The existing landscape was enhanced and soft landscaping in the front yard increased by more than 260% to provide new amenity and improve the streetscape.
Internally, the approach was to make as few changes as possible to the existing structure. The main living spaces were relocated to the upper level where the relationship to the tree canopy is strongest and now open out to a small garden at the rear. The roof over the living room was raised and a floating wall dropped from a skylight shaft to divide and provide scale to the living room.
This approach – combined with modest finishes and detailing – kept the sqm rate well below market rates for building work in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. As well as having cost benefits, careful and modest structural interventions ensured that energy embodied in the original structure was not needlessly transferred to landfill. We believe that doing less is as much a design choice as an environmental choice and a response to budget.
The house has been completely transformed and the plan entirely reorganised to create new relationships to orientation, the garden and the view of Sydney Harbour beyond.