Open Lightness – Balmain House by SAHA

Words by Bronwyn Marshall
Architecture by SAHA
Photography by Saskia Wilson
Build by Keith March Constructions
Engineering by Partridge
Balmain House By Saha Project Feature The Local Project Image (14)

With captivating views of the Sydney skyline, Balmain House is strongly connected to its location. SAHA bridges the home’s old and new elements and collaborates with the client – who has a background in construction – to ensure a cohesive residence.

Though retaining the heritage cottage’s charm, the team created an addition to Balmain House out of view from the street. With experience of building homes throughout their respective careers and an ambition to retire, the owners joined SAHA to carefully navigate the sloping site and uncover unrealised vantage points. The expanded single-storey home features an effortless flow of movement using split levels. To engage more deliberately with the garden, the reworked plan also encourages outdoor living with boundaryless transitions and large windows.

The expanded single-story home ensures access between both the existing and the new feels effortless, with minor changes in levels to enhance movement.

Sitting out of view, the new pavilion is unexpected. After passing through the original cottage, a covered walkway creates a link between the two main forms, with concrete underneath and steel support structures above. A sunken living space awaits in the new volume, with operable windows that encourage natural light and ventilation. Being reminded of the location and proximity to the ocean was key, and opening the space to allow it to breathe allowed this to be felt throughout.

The modern pavilion is an offering of contrast to the original structure. Although similar in scale, the length of the space is emphasised by integrated joinery that runs along the main wall. A cantilevered roof plane shades the glazed wall and thin supporting column pieces are nearly imperceptible. There is a lightness to the overall approach, and through the materiality used, the view and landscape remain the focus.

There is a lightness to the overall formal approach, and through the materiality used throughout the space, allowing the view and the landscape to remain the focus.

The contrast between boldness and quiet moments within Balmain House align with the ebb and flow of daily life. SAHA readies the home for its coming chapters by allowing a deep connection to place and relationship with the garden.