Sometimes a book can be judged by its cover, but its pages still contain a story full of intriguing details. At least that’s the case for this property set in the suburbs of Sydney. From the street, its square brick façade and triangular tiled roof are typical of the other Federation-style houses in the neighborhood—and really, of so many others in the country.
But to step inside and take in the renovation by Sibling Architecture is to experience a singular plot twist performed by founding architect Qianyi Lim and the owner. “The owner wished for the original front part of the cottage to be retained, and chose to update the rear living and kitchen spaces,” Qianyi says. “She sought to connect those lower levels to the outdoor area.”
The original property had been worked on before, but the historic embellishments at the front of the home weren’t touched. Instead, that undertaking resulted in a rear addition that didn’t entirely connect the back of the home to its yard. Qianyi and the owner understood why their predecessors kept the front of the property as is, since its decorative ceilings and wood window seats were too good to lose. But the two agreed that they could do a better job of linking the common areas to the outdoors within a 1,075-square-foot site.
“Our approach was to create a very open plan consisting of a double-story addition that let as much light in through the whole house as possible,” Qianyi adds. “We focused the key social spaces—living, kitchen, and dining—around a wall of shelves.”
Those shelves would be filled with books, of course. The owner spent her career as an English literature academic, and as much as she liked the idea of having an indoor-outdoor home, her reasons for doing so were much more personal than a current trend. “This is for her retirement, and her goal was to build a sanctuary for herself and her vast collection of books,” Qianyi explains. “The rear façade is south-facing, so it gives a very controlled indirect light that’s perfect for reading.”
As for the lasting characters of this project, a.k.a. the glass block façade and the bright blue accents, those have individual explanations too. The home is set behind the city’s busy Princess Highway and under the flight paths leading to the airport, and the glass blocks muffle sound better than clear panes. That shade of blue came from the owner’s request for a color that complemented the home’s materials with a personality of its own.
“It’s bold, but it’s also a classic contrast to plywood and timber,” Qianyi says. And it’s a fun change of pace from black-and-white pages.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest