Top houses of 2015

The easeful simplicity of the addition to a 1930s house in Sydney’s North Shore by Andrew Burges Architects belies its painstakingly refined detailing and subtle spatial manipulation.

After visiting several projects by Andrew Burges, one becomes accustomed to the fact that his alterations and additions projects are generally invisible from the street. Skylight House, a comfortable 1930s home in the upper North Shore Sydney suburb of Lindfield, looks just like any other in the neighbourhood from its quiet, leafy street.

This has become one of Andrew’s trademarks – he and his team work with a quiet modesty, at a range of scales, often on humble things, to make them beautiful. He celebrates what he finds in an existing building and is extremely respectful of generic, often unloved, standard housing stock.

At Skylight House, the work done to the original dwelling involves only a subtle reorganization, with new bathrooms replacing an old corridor and a clearer front–back transparency established. The new wing sits behind the original house and extends a previous iteration of a small kitchen/family room. The new kitchen/eating/family room spreads wide but is only four metres deep, allowing a covered outdoor area between the indoor space and the equally wide, but not deep, garden. The garden is up two steps from the rear deck and the lawn meets windows at each end of the house. This deft move gives a flat lawn that is brimming at the windowsills, so that the garden feels very much a part of the house.

The new rooms have a roof tucked behind the main roof – it has a beautiful simplicity and fine edge/gutter details visible from the garden. By setting up a parallel slope to the rear of the main roof, Andrew allows daylight to fall into the new space through skylight windows. The sloping white ceilings are light and playful above a datum of raw materials. Below that datum, cupboards are timber, or black melamine with ply trim, modestly made but extremely effective. The extent of built-in furniture gives a control and uniformity to the rich messiness of family life.

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