Discrete Luxury – Three Palms by Stafford Architecture

Words by Sam Manchester
Architecture by Stafford Architecture
Photography by Nicholas Watt
Styling by Lucia Braham
Landscape Design Secret Gardens
Structural Engineer ABC Consultants
Hydraulic Engineers C&M Consulting
Windows Vitrocsa

A harbourside house is excavated and transformed into a modern multi-generational home that embodies characteristics of confidence and sophistication. Stafford Architecture has harmonised rich materials to bring peace and cohesion, creating a place of elegance, belonging and, above all, privacy.

Three Palms overlooks Sydney Harbour and is home to three generations of the same family. Sitting on a double-site block spanning roughly 2500sqm, the original house was built back in 2001 but has been partially demolished and excavated to bring new life to the address. Now separated into three storeys that contain distinct segments of life, Stafford Architecture has transformed the site into a tasteful and functional family home.

Three Palms overlooks Sydney Harbour and is home to three generations of the same family.

The ground floor living spaces flow in and out of each other, creating connection with perforated moments of separation.

This challenging reimagining of the original house has brought a cohesion to the property that was formerly lacking. Senior Associate at Stafford ArchitectureJoe McGregor shares the extent of the demolition and excavation needed to bring the home into its new form. “Following the detailed demolition and during the excavation of the basement level, the house had been almost completely stripped of all walls, finishes and fixtures so all that remained was a skeleton of concrete slabs supported by temporary propping.” This stark moment of undoing was paired with a sense of what was to come. He recalls, “standing with the clients at the first floor while they looked down into this shell of what was previously their home, they appeared to be completely at peace and confident in what we were doing.”

This is a house that knows who it is, and rich materiality proclaims its identity

The upstairs rooms are styled to carry character throughout each bedroom suite.

From the street, the building keeps its secrets close. The rectangular exterior is a series of parallel sections of different materials – stone, steel and dark vents contrasting with pale walls punctuated by glass. A garden traces the rear of the house with few external windows: the house is pacing itself for the vista in front. The street level entrance has been redesigned from the formality of a grand porte-cochere of the original house to a more modest sense of arrival. Guests are gently led to the entrance along a curved ramp that gradually reveals the iconic bridge and harbour beyond.

This is a house that knows who it is, and rich materiality proclaims its identity. Each room speaks in calm and confident tones, with assertive right angles and contrasting timber, stone, and steel. The result is one of luxury and sophistication. Throughout the home, dark timbers, variegated marble, bronze accents and leather trimmings are to be found. Each of these offer a unique texture under hand or foot as you move from one room to the next. Together they balance an assertive, ancient stone with warm, scented timbers.

Strong masculine marbles with intense veining contrast clean pale limestone to visually separate and define spaces.

Each room is united under a sense of purpose, designed with a sophistication that blends with a note of warmth and familiarity, capturing the sense that each room is a haven. The ground floor contains the spaces for living and entertaining. Here the kitchen flows into casual living and dining rooms, with their gaze set out to the water. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer uninterrupted views of the harbour, and adjacent rooms have been built for further functionality. A formal dining room is followed by a formal living room with formal tea room attached.

The ground floor is tied together with a unique piece of artisanship, a bespoke continuous display cabinet crafted by Blank Joinery that stretches through the three main rooms on the ground floor. The cabinet is a masterful exemplar of craft and connects each space both physically and visually.

The stark motif of perpendicular lines and elegant materials continues throughout.

The basement level is devoted to entertainment, with a wine cellar, cinema and rumpus room among the spaces that occupy this level.

On the first floor are the family bedrooms for children, parents, and grandparents. Five bedrooms with ensuites and a study that overlooks the double height entry. The three main bedroom suites each face the harbour and have their own unique design and aesthetic. The stark motif of perpendicular lines and elegant materials continues throughout. Taking inspiration from luxury hotels and Japanese design, these rooms also exude a calm grandeur. A basement floor has been added by excavation. This third level takes the theme of entertainment, with a wine cellar, cinema, rumpus room, and powder room. Meanwhile, an outdoor pool, sauna, and pool house with kitchenette and living spaces extends the home’s sense of repose.

The demarcation of experiences across these levels and spaces further reinforces the balance and harmony of the design. Entering the home and moving through its spaces, from the secluded basement to the sophisticated and light-filled rooms above that bask in the views of Sydney Harbour, there is a sense that Three Palms is a unification of materials, purpose, and of generations – a place for family life to be lived in comfort and privacy.