Hidden Garden House / Sam Crawford Architects
Behind a high brick wall, a remnant of previous stables, and through a secluded courtyard lies a staircase to a hidden rooftop garden. The garden oasis sits atop a dramatic curved concrete ceiling to the living areas below. The garden provides privacy and a delightful outlook for the main bedroom and ensuite, allowing the owners to sleep and bathe amidst the plants. Sam Crawford Architects (SCA) has transformed a free-standing double-fronted split-level 1980s terrace in urban Sydney and opened it up to the rear north-facing yard, embracing the sky and drawing light deep into the center of the home.
“Our client’s brief was to take the existing house, which had great bones but dark internal rooms, and re-configure it to be a contemporary light-filled series of spaces, passively heated and cooled,” said Sam Crawford, director at SCA. “The house is in a heritage conservation zone, so we needed to develop a contemporary language that sits comfortably within the context.”
On entering through a central front door, an inviting, open, white steel-framed stair leads up and down, giving glimpses to the roof garden above and the living areas below. It replaces a solid timber stair that blocked light. An enlarged skylight above illuminates the center of the house and enlarges the sense of space. In the downstairs living area, the new curved concrete ceiling sweeps upwards, allowing winter sun and providing summer shade. It draws the eye up and out, expanding the new space into the surrounding area and opening up expansive sky and district views. A four-and-a-half-meter wall of glass maximizes the connection with the sun-drenched courtyard garden and a north orientation, with its clerestory windows allowing natural ventilation.
The concrete ceiling forms the sloped roof garden and open terrace to the main bedroom above. An existing ensuite was raised and moved forward to sit within the new roof garden. The owners can bathe amidst the plants in complete privacy with vistas, thanks to the angled timber screens and plantings. Entries to the lower level laundry and bathroom, originally off the living areas, were relocated to the new stairwell wall. Natural light is brought into these spaces through sculptural skylights, made possible by the changed ceiling heights.
Restrained and earthy materials and palette flow throughout the home, exuding a sense of calm. Pale eucalyptus-green square tiles in a mix and match of matt and gloss together with spotted gum joinery appear in the kitchen and bathrooms. Limestone floor pavers continue from the living space into the back garden, extending the entertainment areas. Curvilinear geometry reappears in the kitchen island and splash back, bathroom vanities, cupboards and door handles, and shower recesses. Clever storage is embedded throughout. SCA did landscape design and plant selection in conjunction with Fytogreen. Native plantings and seasonal flowers add to the biodiversity, attracting pollinators and birds.
“Our clients wanted to live without air conditioning. We carefully calibrated solar control and high-level cross ventilation, with new double glazing and insulation, to minimize additional heating and cooling requirements. The hydronic underfloor heating system is only used occasionally and, thanks to the solar system and battery, their power consumption is greatly reduced,” said Crawford.
With its big sky views, secluded garden oasis, passive solar and ventilation, and light-filled interiors, Hidden Garden House is “a peaceful sanctuary to come home to,” said the clients. With new, open views, they love being able to track a flock of birds across the sky.
Our clients love: – The free-form concrete roof really changes both upstairs and downstairs. It is wonderful to look at, and the acoustics of listening to music in the evening are wonderful. Upstairs, as the base for the garden, it makes both our bedroom and bathroom magical, looking out on the plants with chimney pots peeking out beyond. – Using the shower on dark winter mornings with just the lights on the green roof is a lovely way to get ready for a busy day. The deck and green roof are secluded and private — a patch of nature in the urban habitat. – The big windows out the back give an expansive sky view where you can track the clouds and weather and moon and watch flocks of birds go by — an unexpected ‘big sky.’ – Did not expect double glazing effects on sounds and warmth. – The solar and battery are great additions — tracking the solar generation and electricity use becomes an enjoyable habit and we use less energy from the grid.