Closely Entwined – Riley’s Terrace by Adele McNab Architecture

Words by Bronwyn Marshall
Photography by Clinton Weaver
Interior Design by Adele McNab Architecture

As a labour of love, Riley’s Terrace is sculpted into an intentional and curated series of spaces to reflect the architect’s own nuanced engagement with nature. Adele McNab Architects brings a series of insertions together to optimise light, overlay efficiency and create meaningful connection to the surrounding community.

Stretching long and lean down its narrow and restrictive three-metre-wide site, Riley’s Terrace becomes an interplay of closed and open elements. As a key part of the design language of the tightly woven streets of Redfern in Sydney, the terrace is lined up amongst similar typologies. As the architect’s own home, her intimate knowledge of the area and how the home previously functioned provided the ultimate launch pad for her first project wearing the ‘client’s shoes’. Adele McNab Architecture resultingly uses her own curiousness with a heightened eye for detail and tactility to propose a home for her growing family, reflecting how they live now and with anticipation of their future.

The creation and placement of the internal courtyard space both opens up the floor plan and inserts an almost breathing heart into the centre of the home; uncovered and moving from the front portion to the rear, it ensures a reminder of the elements.

Owner-built, together with carpentry by Maple Building & Design and joinery by UltraForm Joinery, Riley’s Terrace is founded on three core principles. The first is the engagement with natural light, which is a typical first move for any heritage adaptation. The creation and placement of the internal courtyard space both opens up the floor plan and inserts an almost breathing heart into the centre of the home; uncovered and moving from the front portion to the rear, it ensures a reminder of the elements. The opening then allows for a generous pull of both light and ventilation across the site. The second principle is the reworking of the home’s planning to create efficiency. Integrated joinery conceals and supports the everyday rituals of the home, while the creation of a ‘laneway’ building to the rear addresses the external landscape and stretches the program of the home outwards.

The third principle is founded on ideas of community and openness. The new form clearly identifies with the home through a warm timber façade, opening up to the lane and encouraging interaction with neighbours. Having lived in the terrace for a number of years, it was a time of uncertainty that spurred the need for change. Expecting her first child, the home became part experiment and part personal expression, creating opportunities for interconnections across the site. A sense of restraint underpins the structure, while insertions of stone and metals elevate and are layered upon a mostly raw, honest palette of materials.

A sense of restraint underpins the structure, while insertions of stone and metals elevate and are layered upon a mostly raw, honest palette of materials.

Riley’s Terrace focuses on openness at its core, where Adele McNab Architectures connects both internally and beyond the building edge, adding value to the home and to the area equally.