Illuminated Spaces – Bring to Light by Stafford Architecture
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Previously dark and compartmentalised, this Darling Point terrace house has undergone a complete transformation. Stafford Architecture created a newly open floor plan and injected daylight into its heart, resulting in a spacious home with that by turns surprises and delights.
With views over Rushcutters Bay, the original house had plenty of potential, but reaching it required a complete overhaul and that several challenges be overcome. The site is just 7.5m wide and, due to a heritage conservation zoning, the existing roof line and chimneys needed to be retained. The two walls that continue down the length of the house were propped up while the interiors were completely gutted, providing Stafford Architecture with a clean slate to redesign the interior spaces.
“The existing house was dark and full of pokey rooms, so opening up the floor plan and bringing in as much natural light as possible was key,” says architect Bronwyn Litera. “It was important to create connections through the length of the house, to make it feel more open and avoid any dead ends.”
Arches, reminiscent of the home’s original architecture, are used throughout the house as a way of blurring the lines between spaces and creating a sense of continuity.
The material palette is raw and honest, with wide oak floorboards and Tasmanian oak battening chosen to bring warmth to the lofty spaces. Cast concrete is used for floating vanities in the bathroom, providing a sense of history. This material is echoed elsewhere in the house, such as in cabinetry tops in the bedroom and the hearth in the living room. “Clean white ceilings reflect and bounce the light the house captures, and curved edges give spaces a feeling of endlessness,” says Bronwyn. “At special moments we introduced unique materials, such as the monolithic quartzite island bench that grounds the towering void above, and recycled terracotta roof tiles laid in a herringbone pattern in the dining room.”
The house has delights around every corner. In the lower-level rumpus room, a clever custom-made bookshelf slides across to hide the TV. A 3m-long saltwater aquarium that mimics the conditions of the Great Barrier Reef runs along one wall of the living room, in line with the kitchen cabinetry. This was a passion project for the client and required the floor to be specifically engineered to carry its weight.
“Clean white ceilings reflect and bounce the light the house captures, and curved edges give spaces a feeling of endlessness.”
Curves and arches echo throughout the home, including the bathrooms where, along with a palette of cast concrete and timber, they bring about the aesthetic of an ancient Spanish bath.
Opening the home up to the incredible views of the bay and surrounds was also a top priority for the architects when planning the interiors. From the entry gate, it is now possible to see all the way through to the tops of the sails in Rushcutters Bay. A three-storey-high window to the west provides a view across to the trees and the bay beyond as you enter the house.
With a street frontage that appears modest, Bring to Light elicits surprise from visitors, says Bronwyn. “The design focused on connecting its inhabitants to the view, and on bringing light to even the furthest corners, but I think despite the intention being there, everyone still had their breath taken away on walking under the central void for the first time. The pure scale of the space, and the transformation from the pokey and dark terrace house that it was, is unbelievable.”