Playful Modernist – Seymour Road by Lani Fixler Studio

Words by Bronwyn Marshall
Architecture by Lani Fixler Studio
Photography by Timothy Kaye
Video by Dan Preston
Interior Design by Lani Fixler Studio
Landscape Design Acre
Landscape Execution Earth DNA Landscaping

As an open embrace of its setting on a street lined with heritage-listed period and modernist gems, Seymour House is inserted as a respectful addition to its neighbourhood. In crafting her own home, Lani Fixler has created a place that is at once private and personal while also engaging in an open conversation with the streetscape.

Lani seized the opportunity to embed a sense of her family’s personality and history into the design of her own home as well as drawing from the existing architectural lineage of the area, such that the personal and the contextual responses become inseparable. “The design of the house reflects our appreciation of modernist architecture,” she says. “Each space is designed with purpose and rigour and reflects the needs and lifestyle of our family.” Sited on narrowly arranged block, Seymour House navigates the balancing of natural light and sense of protective enclosure amongst its established neighbours. Respectful of these nearby heritage houses, the proposal draws upon shared formal principles, and instead of turning its back on the street, it presents as a home that naturally belongs to its context. “It was really important that the home fit in with the character of the street,” Lani reflects. “It needed to be modest but still have its own confidence, be respectful of the trees and the heritage homes in the area, and make sure everything had a purpose.”

The combined living, dining and kitchen space opens up to the garden, and a stepped transition expresses a zone change from the initial entry from the front courtyard without the need for a physical wall or barrier.

In its location across from Harleston Park, Lani wanted the house to feel connected with the street and embrace its constricted site instead of challenging it. “The design, including the façade, references modernism, reinforced by the choice of materials including blockwork, concrete, timber and slate,” she says. With the front façade and detailing presenting as a simplified and finely tuned resolve, the expressed blade blockwork walls, white batten screening and the cantilevering second storey all insert a crispness to the street. “The façade is simple and detailed, purposefully unassuming and timeless,” she explains. “It takes influences from modernism and the many examples of mid-century architecture in the area where a balance of natural, textural and robust materials all ground with a sense of calm.”

With the street to the south of the site, the home is arranged for the north and west-facing rear to selectively frame views outward. In ensuring connections to natural elements throughout the home, four key landscaped spaces – front, side, centre and rear – allow for the home to breathe and engage with the elements, passively cooling and ventilating in the process, while allowing for solar control. “The landscape was really important, and the plan blurs internal and external spaces,” Lani says. Drawing on principles of discovery and reveal, the entry presents itself along the side of the home, arrived at after walking through a landscaped courtyard. Entering through the side, with the carport sitting to the front, one moves into the architecture after already having experienced the landscape. “Rather than fence off the front garden, [it] was left open, suggesting a continuation of the park and tree-lined street,” Lani explains.

“The design, including the façade, references modernism, reinforced by the choice of materials including blockwork, concrete, timber and slate.”

The creation of a unique entry sequence then sets the tone and nudges the planning to take direction from this point, where zones naturally form and arrange themselves based on function and adjacency. The combined living, dining and kitchen space opens up to the garden, and a stepped transition expresses a zone change from the initial entry from the front courtyard without the need for a physical wall or barrier. On the upper level, a picture window connects to a prominent street tree and views over the park below. In this careful arrangement on site, the intention was to create a home that “felt inviting, calm and timeless,” Lani says, adding that “it was important to achieve a flow and communication between open family spaces while having private spaces for different family members to retreat to.”

Though the house is highly detailed, Lani expresses that “it is mostly understated and, at the same time, is punctuated with moments of excitement.” From a foundation of predominantly cool finishes, the layered curation of lighting, artwork and furniture enrich the spaces with a considered depth and character. Bringing together family antiques and heirlooms with a multitude of pieces collected by Lani and her husband over the years, she wanted the home to provide the backdrop to life that reflected her family’s passions. “The spaces happily accommodate our eclectic collection of furniture and art, including pieces of sentimental value such as two [1950s] Sciolari chandeliers.”

Focusing on what she describes as “the beautiful and the functional,” Lani’s work centres around thoughtful design. Driven by an attuned attention to detail, glimpses of unexpected elements throughout express a sense of personality, adding an additional layer to the otherwise restrained aesthetic of the home. With a sensitivity to the history and character of the surrounding neighbourhood, Seymour House graciously allows past narratives to continue while new chapters unfold.