Beauty from the beast
An ugly duckling is re-imagined as a stylish family home, writes Robyn Willis
There was a lot to recommend this property when owners Frank and Gina Kapos first laid eyes on it. Overlooking the bay in the sought-after suburb of Rodd Point, it offered easy access to the best the inner west had to offer and had the potential to grow with their family which included their four children.
It was a pity, then, that as it stood the 1970s red brick house was not the most enjoyable home to live in. When designer Shady Youses of Sydesign was called in to look at the place, the problems were obvious.
“It needed a lot of remedial work,” he says. “The internal spaces were quite unsightly and dark and they lacked ventilation.
“There was a lot of house to start with and the question was whether to renovate or knock it down and rebuild,” Shady says.
“We decided to work with the existing structure because there was too much house to remove and it would be better value for money to work with what they had rather than start from scratch.”
The house, while solid, was a series of stuffy rooms that lacked natural light. It was not the entertainer’s home that Frank and Gina had in mind, but afforded other opportunities.
Although it presented as a two-storey property from the street, its position on a sloping site meant that it was a single storey at the rear. As the lower storey was primarily a garage, the house met development requirements for a single level dwelling, giving Shady more design flexibility.
The new work entailed reworking the existing floorplan to make the second storey the centre of family life, with four bedrooms clustered in the centre of the house and open- plan living spaces either side. The street frontage would become a large lounge zone, complete with a cantilevered outdoor terrace which replaced the old, unused balcony.
A central hallway connecting the living space at the street front to the open-plan kitchen and dining room at the north-facing rear would ensure cross ventilation and stronger access to natural light.
At the rear, the house would become the entertainer’s delight that Gina and Frank had envisioned, with easy access from the kitchen to the covered alfresco dining area and the pool beyond via stacker sliding doors installed to meet water safety requirements. Downstairs, Shady made the most of the limited access to light, designing a spacious home theatre and bar as well as a generous office space, cellar and storage rooms next to the double garage.
However, the major change to the original floorplan was the addition of another storey which would become the parents’ retreat.
With its own living area, ensuite, walk-in robe and bedroom overlooking a wide balcony, the main bedroom suite literally capped off the
design. Made from lightweight materials, the top floor has been heavily insulated to boost its thermal mass while the deep eaves over the balcony protect the interior from the worst of the summer heat.
Rather than take it through the traditional Development Application process, Shady designed the house to meet the criteria for Complying Developments which allows for approval in 10 days or less.
“Going with a Complying Development helped a lot with the timing,” he says. “They permit up to two storeys but the garage didn’t count as a storey and the house was single level from the back so we could add the master bedroom suite.”
The 15-month construction process was a straightforward affair, says Shady, starting with the construction of the Versaceinspired pool at the back and working forward. During building, the only minor change was a decision to partly shield the terrace from the street by extending the concrete halfway up the glass balustrade.
“The clients were concerned about overlooking from the nearby park so we changed the balustrading on the balcony from full glass to partial glass,” he says.
Shady says Gina was heavily involved in choosing finishes for the house, taking her cue from high-end hotels and 1970s luxe.
Upholstered walls, contoured carpet and walnut-stained joinery with slick chrome handles create a complete sensory experience quietly reminiscent of the era in which the house was built.
“There is a slight ’70s retro aesthetic,’’ says Shady. “All the joinery is custom made, from the TV cabinets and fireplace to the alfresco cooking area and walk-in pantry, so it’s a cohesive finish.”
With a final budget of $800,000 excluding joinery, the pool and landscaping, the finished design has changed the house’s status from the local eyesore to neighbourhood showstopper.