A ‘Fortress of Solitude’ on the Market – Double Life House by Breathe Architecture
Surry Hills, NSW Australia

Photography Katherine Lu
Words Thida Sachathep

For anyone seeking to leave the world behind and find peace and respite, Double Life House by Breathe Architecture is designed to offer expansive living within a relatively small footprint in Sydney’s Surry Hills – a place created to offer a reprieve from the hectic pace of the city outside.

Double Life House is a ‘fortress of solitude’, offering peace and protection from the outside world. Keeping outsiders guessing with its aged façade typical of an original Victorian terrace, Double Life House takes its name from the design that allows its residents to live a double life – a life of peace and tranquillity at home, contrasted with the demanding, noisy life outside the house’s walls.

The design is nostalgic of a restful retreat or boutique hotel. Although some might look at the existing footprint as a challenge, Breathe Architecture were successfully able to pare back its shell and celebrate a unique aesthetic by deliberately exposing structure and materials over a century old.

Combining a classic architecture exterior with a modern interior design, the living space of Double Life is filled with cement-rendered walls and is calmly lit.

Upon entry, the house opens up to a series of spaces that delight as one makes one’s way through. A narrow inner-city terrace, Double Life House is a haven of custom-made surprises. As the original owner of the house, one of the power trio behind Paramount House Hotel, Russel Beard explains “I always look forward to coming home. In fact, it’s the only house I’ve owned that I have felt this.”

Artwork by Max Berry brightens up the kitchen and dining space, which opens up to a courtyard with herringbone brickwork.

Regarded as a working prototype for Paramount House Hotel, there is an honest and unpretentious palette that proves Breathe Architecture’s exemplary attention to detail. The theme of ‘double living’ is emphasised in the residence through furnishings and fittings, with the television concealed behind a Sonny Day art piece. A red velvet curtain that reflects streams of natural light hints at something beyond. Opening to the main staircase and kitchen and dining areas, it is evident that appliances within the kitchen remain obscured, eliminating visual clutter and allowing the residence to celebrate the theatrics of cooking.

The kitchen bench is framed and refined, allowing anyone who owns this house to celebrate the theatrics of cooking with family and friends.

Having reconfigured the staircase to the centre point of the house, the design team included a tall bathroom to cater for the main bedroom. The outdoor shower enclosure is free from obstruction, opening up to the sky to let natural light pour in. The flexibility of a retractable glass roof allows the shower to be closed off during the winter. The sunken concrete living space is wrapped by a banquette, which subtly juxtaposes with the original ceiling herringbone struts from the floor above. This is interrupted by dark joinery to disguise the house even further, demarcating it from the outside world.

The interior evokes a sense of calm and quiet – reiterating to anyone living in the home that this is a space in which to pause. Privacy screens and outdoor courtyards further encapsulates the house as a fully functional cave-like retreat. In the courtyard, there is a narrow staircase wrapped in black steel that leads to the upstairs bedroom, creating a secondary outdoor area and increasing the modest footprint. Elements such as these add to the continuous sense of divulgence and makes this residence more expansive than other Surry Hills terrace houses.

Locally sourced tapware and raw brass fittings are beautifully set within an open-air shower, stimulating a sense of being in a cavern.

The herringbone brickwork, mild steel, concrete and timber offer a robust and timeless material palette. In order to increase the longevity of the new build, materials were locally sourced and include recycled Australian timbers and manufactured brass door and tapware. Additionally, the architects retained and preserved certain existing features with respect to sustainable design. Having incorporated passive solar heating and cooling, Double Life House is fitted with double and triple glazing windows to avoid mechanical heating and cooling, and the sound-dampening wall and ceiling linings keep the noise of the city at bay.

Double Life House is now up for sale and ready to endlessly surprise its new residents with a seemingly limitless space despite the narrow footprint. Above all, the home will offer a robust buffer from the outside world and a peaceful interior space for its new owners to rest and recharge.

Space is used efficiently throughout the entire home. Lined with ample storage, cupboards are fitted to ensure that the small-footprint home is as functional as it is charming.

Double Life House is now up for sale and ready to endlessly surprise its new residents with a seemingly limitless space despite the narrow footprint. Above all, the home will offer a robust buffer from the outside world and a peaceful interior space for its new owners to rest and recharge.

Tlp Doublelife 18
Published 25 November, 2019
Photography  Katherine Lu
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