Victorian terrace

The two faces of this inner sydney dwelling are divided by one metre and one century. Victorian lacework to the right, funky hardwood battens and corrugated steel to the left. And behind it all? relaxed contemporary living orchestrated by Lahz Nimmo architects.
IN ITS ORIGINAL CONDITION THIS VICTORIAN terrace had sound front rooms, with unremarkable rear add-ons and a cluster of sheds at the side. The sheds and add-ons were demolished, leaving architects Annabel Lahz and Andrew Nimmo an unusually generous amount of free space in which to transform the dwelling.
Usually, old terraces sit cheek-by-jowl with their identical neighbours. But in this case, the removed sheds left valuable metres on the southern side — and the client responded positively to the architects’ ideas for expanding sideways. The front entrance, still in the original terrace, now leads into a hallway with the original rooms to the right, retained as living rooms on the ground floor and bedrooms upstairs, and the new section to the left.
Standing at the foot of the new stair, the dividing line becomes apparent. The wall to the right of the stair is actually the exterior wall of the original dwelling, painted greyish blue and now a feature in its own right. The stairway itself forms a spine, either side of which the new and old are anchored. It is also a light well: clerestory windows, in the north wall under the skillion roof to the extension, cast light back into the new upper story studio and down the stairs into the kitchen and living area. The bathroom, clad externally in aluminium sheeting, straddles the old and new halves of the building at the top of the stairs.
In the extension — about as far away from the darkened interior of the Victorian era as one can get — the kitchen elements are set flush against the south wall. This leaves plenty of open space for furniture and traffic flow: this is a zone designed as much for passing through as living in. Front and back, the outdoors is embraced via sliding glass doors inside steel-framed timber-clad vertical lift doors. Facing the street, a masonry wall creates a private courtyard and presents an anonymous facade to the street, while at the rear the doors open out to a raised timber deck.
On the upper level, the studio is similarly an essay in light and colour with windows opening at either end, and vertical timber columns creating a series of internal openings parallel with the stair. The light from the clerestory windows illuminates the yellow feature walls opposite.
Both upstairs and downstairs, the front and rear windows are protected by screens of timber battens, softening the intense light coming from the east and west, and providing privacy facing the street.
At the rear, the removal of existing additions left space enough for an enclosed outdoor area designed by landscape architect Kristen Martin. Square pavers form a path to the shed and workspace (the client is a designer and has had this space fitted out with three data outlets and three-phase power) and the rest is predominantly a ground cover of white pebbles softened by bamboo, moss and lilly pillies.
Behind its chalk-and-cheese exterior, this dwelling is all about harmony — between indoors and outdoors, and within living zones. It’s also about creating a liveable environment in a built-up urban area, hidden from the outside world — yet in constant contact with it.

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