Reinterpreting the traditional and the familiar, Balmain House replaces an existing lean-to extension through a contemporary lens. Nick Bell Architects opens up and unites the inner workings of a timber weatherboard cottage through expansion and realignment, creating unique moments for connection.
Situated in the heritage rich urban fabric of Sydney’s Balmain, the same-named house replaces an existing ill-fitting 1980s extension to the rear of its timber weatherboard cottage home. As with many heritage homes of formal proportions, over time ‘lean-to’ formations emerge as an expansion of the original home to ensure its functionality and better connection of its comprising parts. Taking the previous extension and analysing its successes and weaknesses, the result sees an extended volume that sits suitably behind its heritage frontage and extends modestly outward and upward to fulfil the owner’s brief. Nick Bell Architects opens up and encourages natural light inward, while making deliberate connections between inside and out.
Built by Hi-Spec Constructions, Balmain House was inherited as a series of many dark spaces, low ceilings and a dividing central stair, all resulting in an absence of outdoor entertaining space. The new works see the relocation of the stair to the side of the rear extension, adding additional volume, where its landingthe floor extends to create a unique and light-filled study space. A courtyard is introduced to the north to create access with the desired aspect and to allow natural light to infiltrate deep into the floor plan, enlivening a number of spaces. The consolidation of the kitchen, dining and living is key to both the contemporary residential condition, as it is for the internal flow of the home.
Sitting on its own plinth-type structure, the replaced rear addition sees polished concrete flooring extend between zones and ties each of the spaces together, while sitting under three differing roof geometries. Referencing the traditional lean-to roof silhouette, the new addition follows a similar form, while the other part slopes upward toward the rear. The transitional element is a triangular skylight that sits between the two and brings even more natural light inward. Fully glazed, the rear façade has an open dialogue with the landscaped yard, allowing for the space to be fully opened up. Internally, the combination of polished concrete, warming timber and cool plasterboard is contrasted against the dark-fronted kitchen, which connects to the structural elements, tying the inside with its framework.
As with many heritage homes of formal proportions, over time ‘lean-to’ formations emerge as an expansion of the original home to ensure its functionality and better connection of its comprising parts.
Balmain House replaced and reinvigorates the previous home and by disassembling the traditional lean-to proposes a new format. Nick Bell Architects combines a contemporary restraint with an understanding of an honest and humble approach.