The streets of Sydney’s Paddington is full of Victorian-era homes adorned with ornate iron lace and decorative classical details. But it is often impossible to tell what lies behind each heritage facade. Originally dark and disconnected from their surroundings, many of these houses have been adapted and opened up to contemporary living.
An example of this is Paddington House of Triassic. Beyond the charming facade lies a beautifully designed family home, designed to maximize the impact of passive heating and cooling. The contemporary design references the character of the terrace and the neighbourhood, while creating a calm, light and airy interior with flexible and functional spaces that suit a young family.
With an adjoining terrace, the challenge is to bring light into the floor plan. However, this terrace had the advantage of a relatively shallow footprint (2.5 rooms deep) and four stories, allowing more access to light and air. Trias retained the antechambers on each level and reconfigured the rest of the layout to improve access to light and a visual connection to the outdoors. “We created a front room, back room and service/staircase in the middle and repeated that layout on every floor,” says Casey Bryant, architect and director at Trias. With careful consideration of the transition between rooms, the design team has produced an interior that flows smoothly from front to back – from old to new – with the central staircase improving planning, thermal performance and interior connections. “The house is the same size, but we have so many spaces that we didn’t have before,” says the client. “Depending on the weather, we move to different areas.”
Large openings and different floor materials create a quiet separation between spaces on the entry level. Wooden floors unite the living room at the front and the new kitchen at the rear. Between these two spaces, textured terracotta-colored herringbone tiles provide thermal mass in winter and underfloor heating. This central space offers an adjustable circulation space (it is currently a play area for the client’s young daughter), as well as a gallery wall where a Paul Davies painting takes pride of place. Strip lighting is neatly concealed in the crown molding – an approach repeated in every room, keeping ceilings clean and minimal.
Trias enlarged the opening to the kitchen and dining room, where wood joinery and carved details add warmth and texture to the otherwise understated space. Brickwork visible through the kitchen window provides a view of the composition of the rear facade. The alternating pattern of protruding stones gives dimension to this back wall while also reflecting the original stonework of the house and its neighbours. “I am interested in the craft of masonry around here. Instead of copying it, we thought about the contemporary brick and masonry craft we can do today,” says Casey. The pattern gives way to French doors, which reference the Victorian doors at the front of the terrace. council regulations do not allow balconies into the area, but by opening inward, these doors evoke a balcony feel.
The design of the rear facade is an integral part of the interior experience. The French doors bathe the kitchen and upstairs bedroom in light and direct the view to a prominent cypress tree in the neighbour’s yard, as if inviting it to become part of the house. Blockwork casts dappled light across the floor and fly screens keep the windows open for the breeze at night.
The staircase has been compressed into a more compact form, with a skylight that filters light through the stairwell into the center of the house. The semi-arch under each staircase references the front doors and windows, enhancing the sense of volume and artisanal quality – as do the soft curves of the sculptural steel banister and the irregularity of the Moroccan tiles on the steps.
Upstairs, the bedroom at the front is retained and historic elements are refreshed, with a new bedroom at the back, so that the clients and their young daughter sleep on the same floor. The bathroom, which has been moved to the center of the floor plan, continues the tiled floor. The shower/bathroom has plaster walls and is lit by a skylight. Set in a new circular dormer in the attic above, this skylight offers a different aspect of the cypress.
On the ground floor, the bedroom at the front has also been refreshed, the laundry room has been incorporated under the stairs and the bathroom has been moved opposite. A new spacious room opens onto the courtyard, providing a flexible space for family, guests and entertainment.
With sustainability and craftsmanship integrated into the architecture, Paddington House is designed for the future, but with a nod to the past. It is a relaxed and resilient house that, behind the monumental facade, is filled with light and warmth.