By Katrina Malyn | Photos courtesy of BresicWhitney
What kind of privacy can you expect in a house in a densely built-up, inner city area? The house at 8 Broderick Street, Balmain is a rare example where smart design creates a sense of unexpected solitude. It’s also a great example of how enduring smart design principles can be.
This house was recently sold by BresicWhitney and I went there to have a look before the new owner moved in.
The very first impression you get from the street is just how secluded the house is. There are hardly any windows at eye level and no welcoming entry porch. However, there is a narrow walkway to a concealed entry surrounded by wild foliage. As you approach this tall, dark brown building (it conjures a medieval castle), you suddenly realise that you are walking on a bridge and the deep gutter under your feet resembles a mote.
The architectural elements inside add to this feeling of a knight’s lodge: a heavy wrought iron gate leads to a spiral staircase with a thick solid metal handrail and the walls are rough and textured. The black fireplace adds to the austere impression.
However, the inside is a stark contrast to what you can see from the street.
What seemed impenetrable from the street is unashamedly open inside. The house turns out to be a glass box with floor-to-ceiling windows running the full length of each of the three levels.
Suddenly, a feeling of solitude envelopes you, even in the master bedroom on the top level, where two walls are fully glazed opening to tree foliage on one side and water views on the other.
We are used to thinking that privacy in a city means closing yourself off with walls. So why does the openness of this house give such an unexpected feeling of seclusion? The unusual zig-zag layout of the house and the sloping terrain prevent neighbours from looking into the private parts of the house.
The main reason, however, is that this house with its almost non-existent walls, resembles a hut on a desert island where you don’t need to protect your privacy because you are the only human there.
The impression of a hut is reinforced in the lounge room on the ground level – it has a straw ceiling. The straw, however, has been shaped into perfect squares. This is not the wild straw of a tropical island.
The ruggedness of the house serves as a perfect backdrop for modern furniture – this house was built in the 1970s but great design principles work decades later.
The main design principle that makes this house so successful today is the contrast between the understated and the unashamed. As the house was built with a bohemian lifestyle in mind, it is predisposed towards the unabashed and the bold – its exposed bedroom is a great example of this.
The interior and exterior materials are simple – concrete, timber and glass – but they are materials of luxury because of how expensive they are. Concrete and solid timber are both luxury materials and so is glass in abundance. Together this combination makes for a feeling of nonchalant luxury.
The house and its interiors are heritage listed despite the fact that it was only built in the 1970s. This unique building was designed by the acclaimed architect Stuart Whitelaw for another architect Sir Roy Grounds. The collaboration of these talented people resulted in a house that amazes even to this day.
—Katrina Malyn is a designer specialising in creating houses with a view even if there is no view. Examples of Katrina’s work can be found across Sydney, and range from under $500,000 to $1 million projects.