Attic House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

Redesigned and extended by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects, this inspiring single family home is located in Coogee, Australia.

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Attic House involved extensive alterations to an Arts and Crafts house including a new master suite in the roof space. The project brief was to modernise a heritage family home and its 1990s addition. Existing rooms were dark and disconnected. To improve flow and usability a series of new aligned openings create a view straight through the house. Dark plaster reveals, concrete thresholds and pivot doors give clarity to previously loosely defined spaces. A light, curved staircase floats above the existing traditional stair to connect the new level. Dark timber detailing was painted white and new openings visually connect the existing spaces. Original timber panels in heritage rooms were retained but painted white for a softer, brighter feel. The 1990s living area at the rear was rebuilt with sharp black windows, a weatherboard ceiling and white joinery to subtly connect various areas and bring coherence to the house as a whole. A new master suite was carved into the existing roof space and windows added in a sympathetic manner to embrace the water views. Achieving lightness and openness were the aim throughout. Spaces are pared back and honestly detailed with elements such as exposed ceiling collar ties. The stair to the new upper level was made curved and floating to contrast the heavier original stair beneath. The original arched fireplace was re-fitted and brickwork painted black. Semi-transparent pendant lights and paper-lanterns were incorporated in an eclectic selection of contemporary and mid-century furniture pieces, which contribute to the ethereal feel. The project thoughtfully and respectfully changes a heritage house, allowing the original qualities to be the heroes while improving amenity and coherence throughout. Insertions are subtle but powerful. The language used is consistently light and uplifting, without demanding attention. Through careful detailing and planning strategies and a soft, simple material palette the whole house comes together as a calm and joyful place for the family. Not ostentatious or overdone but calm, flowing and well resolved. The project shows that retention of existing built fabric can be more powerful than layering materials and designed elements onto a space. By the designer stepping back and allowing the openings, voids and details to be the heroes a sense of effortless and lightness is achieved. Complex engineering issues were overcome in this project. The existing roof space was entirely filled with timber and had to be reconstructed to accommodate the master suite. The curved, floating stair required careful resolution and sophisticated engineering in order to appear light and effortless. Budget constraints required clever solutions to problems that may have been solved more easily at extreme expense.

Photography by Anson Smart

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- by Matt Watts