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Semi-Detached But Wholly Private

Semi-Detached But Wholly Private

Clever design rejuvenates this semi-detached house in a densely populated area of Sydney’s east, giving residents plenty of natural light without sacrificing their privacy.

When architect Carla Middleton and her husband first bought this semi-detached house in Sydney’s east the young professional couple knew they wanted to make major changes. Some initial, superficial work bought them time but six years later Carla took on the project as a job for her recently launched eponymous practice, Carla Middleton Architecture.

With one child and another on the cards, the brief was for a house that had lots of space for their family to grow. As it was the residence was both narrow and short. Thankfully, the site was long. Long lines prevailed in the architecture and Carla was careful to avoid anything that cut across the width.

In direct contrast to the former plan that felt dark and gloomy and lacked connection to the outdoors, a desire for natural light and seamless indoor­–outdoor living spaces was paramount. Programmatically, Carla and her husband agreed on five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a home office.

The front two bedrooms on the ground floor of Tama House remain while the third has been split into a bathroom and laundry. The placement of the kitchen is unchanged but has been extended under the stairs (care of a dedicated coffee nook) and flows openly to the dining area and down to the living room. “After entering the house with low ceilings and dark spaces, the pop up of space to 7-metres, drenched in northern sunlight, creates a dynamic living room,” says Carla.

Skylights, picture windows, and large sliding doors out to the backyard let plenty of the desired natural light in at all times of the day. “I’ve noticed a change in my kids and they are very responsive to the natural light of the house,” says Carla. “They love to play at home and dependent upon what time of day it is they have many areas to occupy themselves.”

At the back of the garden and completely independent from the house is the home office/studio. Upstairs are the three main bedrooms and two bathrooms. A cavity sliding door visually and acoustically separates the bedrooms upstairs from the living areas below. Roof windows add value on many fronts: not only do they offer natural light they provide privacy from neighbours in the densely occupied area and connect the family to the trees, rain, clouds and stars beyond.

The gable roof of the original house is repeated in the extension in an asymmetrical form. Not only does this offer consistency within the context of the rest of the street, but also it allows the architecture to draw in light through the north-east-facing skylight.

An architect doubling as client is always an interesting prospect. Carla’s husband put his implicit trust in her for both roles, his sole request being the dedicated coffee nook. Although he was happy for her to take “full reign on the design” Carla acted as she would with any other client. “I made sure my husband as the client was well informed throughout the process… I forced myself to present the project at each stage and allow him to provide feedback and comments,” she says.

The final result fits perfectly within their individual and collective needs, and offers timeless and flexible design to move with the family through various stages of life.

Carla Middleton Architecture

Photography by Tom Ferguson

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Holly Cunneen

Holly Cunneen was the editor of Habitus and has spent her time in the media writing about architecture, design and our local industry. With a firm view that “design has a shared responsibility to the individual as much as it does the wider community,” her personal and professional trajectory sees her chart the interests, accomplishments, and emerging patterns of behaviour within the architecture and design community.