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Simon Whitbread

The Jewellery Box

James Design Studio as Architects

A new house on a small suburban lot with the defining details of overhanging eaves, a carapace of steel cladding, and a simple palette that emphasises the building’s form. For the young family it is a jewellery box that conceals and embraces intimate moments. The open plan creates a sense of spaciousness and connection to the outdoors, with a transparency created by the flow through indoor and outdoor rooms.


What was the brief?

The project was to be contemporary in its nature and appearance whilst not detracting from the neighbours of whom comprised primarily of more traditional forms. 


This direction allowed us a house with a design which was grown from passive/environmental design principles and concepts drawn from the client’s needs.


As a young family, the clients brief was very much driven by the mother’s desire to have a design which would not encourage the family members to be separated. The brief, simply put, was a new house on small suburban block. There was to be, 5 bedrooms, (one acting as a study), 3 bathrooms (one being the ensuite to the main bedroom), an open plan kitchen, dining and family room and a separate living room. A new pool was to be constructed. Desirable natural light and breezes were to be considered (amongst other passive design principles) and environmentally sustainable systems and materials were to be used. The house had a limited budget so it was important for the architect to keep an eye on budget.


What were the solutions?

Visibility between all indoor and outdoor spaces was the key underlying principle which lead the design. The kitchen, dining, living and family all have direct sight lines to one-another whilst been broken by a courtyard. This courtyard does not inhibit visibility but rather opens onto both the dining and living room, creating both a sense of separation and connection. The living room further opens onto the back deck. This ‘run’ allows clear sight lines from the kitchen all the way to the pool at rear boundary.


What are the sustainability features?

With this desire for openness and connection between spaces, the architects took this opportunity to have internal and external spaces address one another with a sense of strength and continuity. This internal courtyard also acted as a lightwell bringing further indirect light into parts of the house whilst assisting in increasing cross ventilation. When the house is opened up on a hot summers day, even the most gentle breeze provides ample amount of cooling. This principle is carried up stairs with the two levels been connected by a void over the family room. This void acts not only as a connection between the upper landing to the kids bedrooms and the family room below, but as a sort of solar chimney capturing the hot air and dispersing it through high level windows.


Passive design and sustainable principles where considered and acted as a driving force behind the houses design. Environmental Sustainability has not only being considered through the installation of Photovoltaic + solar panels and double glazing to all eastern doors and windows, but rather through design principles such as the abovementioned wind tunnel, sliding external timber screens over eastern and western windows at first floor, carefully calculated overhangs to all north facing windows, (to block out and capture northern sun) and the use of heat sinks in the form of polished concrete slabs to the living and family rooms. These more dense floor materials are cool under foot in summer as the buildings form blocks any direct summer sun whilst capturing the lower winter sun. This winter sun penetrates the concrete slab, warming it throughout the day, and slowly releasing this head throughout the night.


Key products used:

The building was to be kept light-weight. Cost was the driving force behind this, as expensive steel columns and beams would drive up the cost of construction. The first floor cladding system is a product called Barestone which is supplied by CSR Cemintel. The Skillion roofs were provided by RITEK. This roofing system consists of pre finished roofing panels which are brought to site and installed over a couple of days. This fast method of roofing construction vastly reduced the construction period and this in turn saved the clients money as the cost of construction was reduced. The timber screens were made out of western red cedar. All doors and windows were supplied and installed by K & K Shopfitters.


Who are the clients and what's interesting about them?

The clients were a young family. The mother of this family was a former interior designer turned full time mum. With regards to the interior design, the Architects were met, on a weekly basis, with a new variety of butter paper sketches depicting new design concepts dreamed up by the client. This was a wonderful process and the architects got to learn a lot about the client and what she wanted. This left very little room for disappointment. It can be said confidently, that she played a major role in what was to be the final product and the internal spaces would not look the same if it wasn't for her.

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