An Entertainer's Dream – Windsor Street by Tom Mark Henry
With a sensitivity to the spatial qualities of the original architecture, Tom Mark Henry adapts a 1970s townhouse to create an open and welcoming family home designed for entertaining.
Unlike the typically dark and closed traditional terraces prevalent throughout Sydney, the 1970s architecturally designed building fully embraced open planning and split levels and was blessed with a north-facing rear yard. “The unique 1970sarchitecture of the original house was a driving factor in the design, ”says Cushla McFadden, director of Tom Mark Henry. “We were really excited to make the most of the architecture, with a hint of a post-modern design aesthetic.”
The clients’ brief was for a functional family home that also lent itself to their love of entertaining, and this drove the majority of the new interventions. The townhouse was extended to comfortably accommodate the family of five. The cellar was excavated to create a fourth level that houses the steam room, laundry and entertainment room, while the former main bedroom was divided into two and the existing north-facing terrace on the upper level became the new master suite. The roof was altered to mitigate the thermal issues associated with the original skylights, which once gave light to a long-gone pine tree that grew beneath, and the kitchen was flipped to provide for a new butler’s pantry and access to the new basement.
With the home now spread across four split levels, the central staircase– already an important constituent within the original architecture – has an even more significant role to play. “We focused on the existing central stair as a key design element, making it more functional and streamlined,”Cushla says. The permeability of the open staircase and glass balustrades allows a visual connection between the many levels and allows light to penetrate the upper and lower spaces. Maintaining this openness that was characteristic of the 1970s architecture, the staircase is one of the most evident references to the original design.
“The unique 1970s architecture of the original house was a driving factor in the design.”
Yet its contemporary materiality and detailing also speak to the new identity that Tom Mark Henry has carefully crafted for the home. “We were acutely aware of the family growing with the house, so ensured classic materiality of timber, stone, rendered walls and v-groove ceilings were paired with more textured marbles and ribbed glass,” explains Cushla. Pared-back, neutral tones prevail throughout, with the natural variation inherent in stone and subtle joinery details adding depth. Against this palette, the few bolder moments that are to be found are defined and serve as punctuation points, adding emphasis to key entertaining areas. The walnut veneer and apricot marble bar sits as a 1970s reference, while the dual pendant lights above the kitchen island inject a subtly postmodern flavour.
The formal and informal lounges that occupy either side of the central stair encourage both relaxed family gatherings and entertaining guests, but it is the kitchen and dining level that naturally becomes the home’s social hub. “The kitchen was a very personal space for the client as she likes to cook a lot,” says Cushla. Finding the balance between functionality and aesthetics was, therefore, key. Shaker-profile joinery and marble lend the kitchen a familiar classicism befitting the heart of a family home, while abundant storage and carefully selected appliances by Fisher & Paykel provide the all-important functionality without compromising on the design.
“We were really excited to make the most of the architecture, with a hint of a post-modern design aesthetic.”
“The kitchen needed to accommodate the day-to-day comings and goings of a family of five and remain beautiful, so ample storage and built-in joinery were key,” says Cushla. The integrated Column refrigeration from Fisher & Paykel hides seamlessly within the joinery and not only has the capacity required by a growing family but offers variable temperature zones including a ‘pantry mode’ that effectively increases the space available for food storage and keeps it fresher for longer.
In recognition of the kitchen’s important functional role, it was deliberately situated to have direct access to the basement level where the laundry is located. The Fisher & Paykel 12kg ActiveIntelligence washing machine and 9kg heat pump dryer were chosen for the combination of capacity befitting a large family and high energy efficiency. Across both the kitchen and laundry, Cushla reflects that “the Fisher and Paykel range ticked a lot of options for the client, and the team was so accommodating to work with and ensured all the needs for the space were met. I specified Fisher & Paykel in my own home and have no hesitation recommending them to clients based on my own experience.”
Given the family’s love of cooking and entertaining, perhaps the most significant appliances are the ovens and cooktop. The all-black Minimal Touchscreen ovens sit discreetly within the space, with the 76cm Touch screen oven acting as the main oven while the 60cm Touchscreen on the side provides extra capacity when cooking for large family gatherings and entertaining. The 76cm induction cooktop, also from the Fisher & Paykel Minimal range, complements the ovens and “the client loves it as it’s easy to use and clean,” Cushla says.
The kitchen and dining space occupies the level that offers direct access to the outdoors, which also highlights its role as the core of the home. The relationship between the kitchen and the garden is accentuated by new full-height steel-framed doors and the tiled floor that continues past the threshold and into the paved courtyard, “essentially doubling the ground floor entertaining space,” remarks Cushla. It is a relationship with the outside that the design then picks up and subtly interprets in other spaces, further enhancing the home’s original spatial qualities of openness and connection.
It is in this that the design’s holistic approach comes to the fore. Other key moves, such as the central open stair and the new master suite, can be seen to take their cues from the kitchen, revealing it to be at the heart of the design approach just as it is of the home itself. Traversing the stairs, views of the courtyard are captured thanks to the kitchen’s full-height glazing. And extending the master bedroom out into the former balcony has the effect of creating a greater connection between the space and the tops of the trees that grow in the garden below, ensuring the building’s many levels provide a similarly multi-layered experience of the garden as they do of the home.
Not only maintaining but enhancing the sense of connection and lightest unusual in a Sydney terrace, Tom Mark Henry celebrates the essence of the original architecture. Even as its new identity is revealed, Windsor Street expresses its past.