The Fisher & Paykel Series

An Interplay Between Lightness and Weight - The Paddington House by Pohio Adams

Paddington, NSW, Australia

Rose Onans

A renovation of a stately Georgian terrace, the Paddington House by Pohio Adams is defined by the interplay between lightness and weight. The robust materiality of rough-hewn sandstone, corten steel, white burnished concrete and a dramatic black steel staircase is contrasted yet in harmony with delicate details and an abundance of natural light, creating an industrial, urban aesthetic that is unexpectedly resonant with the original Georgian architecture.

“The success of the project required unlocking the potential of the lower ground floor”, explains Chris Adams, co-director of the practice, founded with Bianca Pohio. “To realise this potential, circulation within the house and between indoors and outdoors was key”. This pivotal decision informed the removal of an old staircase that blocked the northern aspect, introducing light, outlook, and a “hugely improved spatial experience,” Chris says.

The rear elevation was reconfigured with new openings at lower ground, and a new two storey opening framing the staircase.

The new design opened the lower-ground level to the north, bringing in natural light and aspect onto the courtyard outside.

The influence of the weight and presence of the huge blocks of exposed sandstone that enclose the lower-ground level is felt in the Paddington House’s robust material palette. Despite the fact the sandstone is over 200 years old, the architects recognised a contemporary industrial aesthetic in the rawness of the stone that provided a link between the original home and the new design. “The palette of steel, stone, and timber provides a coherent connection through the house while at the same time allowing each floor its own subtly different palette and identity”, Chris explains.

“The success of the project required unlocking the potential of the lower ground floor”.

A sculptural spiral stair, crafted from black steel, physically bridges the home’s three levels. Once they identified the stair as a critical element to clarify the circulation throughout the house, “everything started to fall into place,” Chris reflects. “The stair provided an opportunity for a sculptural connection between the levels that drew the urban industrial language of the lower ground floor up through the house with its cold rolled steel structure and stretched spiral form”.

The new steel spiral stair creates a physical connection between the home’s three levels.

The stair’s materiality also provides a visual link between the different levels of the Paddington House.

The project’s three levels create natural zones within the home, which the architects worked with to create a comfortable level of separation between areas for the parents and their teenage children. Pohio Adams had previously worked with the clients when the clients’ children were very young. Returning to Australia after living overseas, they sought a new home for the next stage in their family’s life.

“To realise this potential, circulation within the house and between indoors and outdoors was key”.

A growing family, says Chris, means “the house necessarily becomes a ‘machine for living’ and must accommodate current and future needs in a very robust way”. The new design, thus, engages with this objective at every level from the practical (plenty of storage for the teenagers’ ever-increasing collecting of sporting equipment) to the social (welcoming spaces in which to entertain).

The home is located in a Heritage Conservation Area, so Pohio Adams’ design preserves key historical features.

The functional programme is split across three levels, with private bedroom spaces and bathroom on the first floor, and teenage bedrooms, and common room along with the main bathroom and study occupying the ground floor.

The kitchen is the heart of this family home, encapsulating the design’s approach to both the functional and the aesthetic. The scullery is key to functionality, Chris explains. “When entertaining, it accommodates a clean-up area with large tub and dishwasher, it accommodates food storage and prep area, and day-to-day is where kids’ school bags and sports gear is stored. The scullery also accommodates laundry overflow, so it’s a pretty hard-working space”.

The kitchen and scullery consist of several freestanding pieces, including a kitchen island, bench units and a fridge ‘block’. Slate benchtops with steel angle-edges, thin steel shelving and elegant teak veneer cabinetry reference the home’s overall industrial aesthetic while creating a lightness that interplays with the weight of the stone and exposed steel ceiling beams. The texture created by ceramic glazed tiles cladding the length of the wall behind the back bench subtly echoes the texture of the rough-hewn limestone, while the delicacy of the ceramic simultaneously serves as a contrast.

The kitchen reads as a series of freestanding furniture pieces within the space.

Steel is used in the kitchen echoing the use of steel in the staircase and exposed ceiling beams, yet in a lighter, more delicate manner.

Speaking about the decision to create freestanding joinery pieces that are raised off the ground, Chris explains “this allows the kitchen to sit as a series of furniture pieces within the lower ground floor space. It enables the room to be read as a singular simple space allowing the sandstone perimeter walls to define the overall space”. Integrated appliances by Fisher & Paykel were key to creating this effect that allows the joinery to be viewed as simple, elegant pieces of furniture, rather than a traditional kitchen.

The influence of the weight and presence of the huge blocks of exposed sandstone that enclose the lower-ground level is felt in the Paddington House’s robust material palette.

In the Paddington House, the architects appreciated the flexibility of the Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer’s functionality in a family kitchen, providing a drink cooler, freezer, or fridge as required. The ease of access and excellent visibility of contents means the function here is as a kids’ food and drink fridge. “The shift to appliances which are fully integrated is what we love most though,” Chris reflects. “The ability to make things disappear, or, in the case of this kitchen, create a joinery block just to house the fridge – it works for us”.

The fully-integrated Fisher & Paykel refrigerator hides behind the teak veneer joinery.

A CoolDrawer is used as a drinks cooler and kids’ food fridge due to the ease of access and visibility of contents

The kitchen is integrated with the outdoors not only through the expansive steel-framed windows and glazed doors to the north and the continuity of the ceramic tiles, but through the act of cooking. A 76cm Fisher & Paykel built-in oven, provides the necessary capacity for both family cooking and entertaining, while the proportions are streamlined visually with the cabinetry. The kitchen is then extended outdoors via a DCS by Fisher & Paykel grill, which gives outdoor cooking all the functionality of the kitchen indoors, making the outdoors a social space for gathering to cook and share food.

Integrated appliances by Fisher & Paykel were key to creating this effect that allows the joinery to be viewed as simple, elegant pieces of furniture, rather than a traditional kitchen.

Of their choice to specify Fisher & Paykel, Chris says that “being ex-pat New Zealanders might have something to do with it”, but the real reason was their impression of how Fisher & Paykel have engaged with architects and designers as they develop their products. “We have very much enjoyed the opportunity to engage with Fisher & Paykel in design workshops and have really appreciated seeing input about certain details finding their way into production,” he says.

A 76cm Fisher & Paykel oven offers the necessary capacity for both family cooking and entertaining.

A Fisher & Paykel DCS Grill creates an outdoor kitchen, which is also visually linked to the kitchen indoors through the ceramic tiling

The project’s inherently contemporary approach to kitchen design highlights that the Paddington House is an exemplar of architecture that unites the contemporary with the heritage. Yet this is not simply a case of incorporating contemporary aesthetics and functionality into a house over 200 years old, but rather of taking inspiration from the original and interpreting it in a surprisingly contemporary manner. The result is a strong and robust family home, with a refined edge that speaks to both past and present.

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