Hector Abrahams Architects
Sydney, Australia
Project Year

Private Houses
Richard Glover


Hector Abrahams Architects as Architects

A mature couple choose reorganisation over downsizing.

A c. 1910 classic semiLdetached house was reshaped internally to provide for a family of parents and adult children wanting to live in the same space.

Downsizing is a common issue for mature couples. But this couple didn’t want to move out of the house they’d owned for 30 years. Instead they reconfigured it with the help of Hector Abrahams Architects keeping the same footprint but reorganising the spaces to work better for now and in the future. Four previous renovations had seen a mix of layouts. The owners had never used an architect before and “decided that if we were going to renovate again we were going to do it properly.” And how did they choose their architect? “I liked the sound of Hector Abrahams’ voice on a radio program on Radio National ‘By Design’. He didn’t sound flashy but someone who was concerned about the comfort, the livability of a house. An architect who understood needs.” Client discussions informed the final design W the clients sat down and wrote everything they wanted in the future and all have been incorporated in the final design.

The problems The small house had a poor layout with lots of wasted space. Two small dark rooms in the middle of the house were basically empty spaces that you walked through. A staircase occupied the sunniest prime north corner of a cramped back living area, resulting in a limited opening to the garden. There was no sunlight, it was cold, and the little kitchen was dark. The owners lived in this part of the house. And the layout meant that the keen surfers had to bring wet and sandy gear through the front door.

The Solutions: The first thing HAA did was relocate the staircase. This enabled the family room to be enlarged to include a conservatory and sitting area and a spacious kitchen. The unused TV room in the middle of the house was divided – one half went to a new staircase (with landings to remove the steepness), and to enlarge the sitting room to include a builtWin library and under stair storage. The other half of the TV room became the ensuite and built in cupboards for the master bedroom. The owners had recently returned from Morocco and chose Spanish tiles for their ensuite, not perfectly laid, to give it a rustic quality.

HAA found clever ways to sneak light into the house – in the central sunroom he pushed the side window out by 35 cm to let in more light. And he inserted a small porch in the side, which both added light to the sitting room via a glass door and to the kitchen via a new window. He also created a new side entrance!with!a little deck and a side drying area, a place to hang clothes that is not the back garden, and brings light into to the room. And the laundry now has direct outside access and a guest lavatory.

The upstairs was basically a nip and tuck exercise. There is a lightWfilled new bathroom, a new dressing room to the smallest bedroom; another bedroom now doubles up as a living area/music room, and storage has been squeezed in everywhere. In effect there are now two independent levels, the bottom for the parents and upstairs for adult kids. The surfers are happy with surfboard and wetsuit racks in the garage with its new electric door W they can hose off, hang it all up and go through the side entrance. HAA also created a private outdoor dining arbor in the overlooked back garden with a pergola, complete with BBQ and open fire, and replaced a ‘horrible side concrete’ passage with greenery.

HAA designed the interiors, the kitchen cupboards, bathroom cabinetry and bookcases, as well as the colour schemes to reflect the taste of the client. These were partly arranged around artworks collected by the owners from their time with remote communities in central Australia. Some rough features, such as a previously exterior kitchen wall, have been preserved. Hector Abrahams: “Architecturally it is a study in togetherness and separateness, a story of an internal rearrangement. We’ve done a thousand little things to the house. Tiny little things all make a difference.”

The Verdict? The owners: “We love the house and there is nothing we would want to change. We Australians don’t really appreciate the importance of design, the use of space and light. I loved the collaborative process with Hector where I’d say I like this and he’d say yes but you’ll also need this. Absolutely worth every dollar using an architect.” And the adult kids in this multigenerational house – they won’t be moving out anytime soon!

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