Life’s lit­tle lux­u­ries

How a pair of empty nesters learned to live large in a com­pact house

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - robyn.wil­ Pic­tures Tom Fer­gu­son

The dilemma fac­ing this cou­ple is one fa­mil­iar to many empty nesters. With their kids grown and out of the nest, they no longer needed such a big house, but they didn’t want to knock it down.

They also loved their neigh­bour­hood in Rus­sell Lea in the in­ner west and had no de­sire to move away. In­stead, they sold up to a young fam­ily and bought the house next door.

And then the real work be­gan.

Up­stairs, down­stairs

Lo­cal ar­chi­tect Mark Szczer­bicki un­der­stood that the house the cou­ple re­quired would need to be flex­i­ble but low main­te­nance.

With room for two storeys at the front and one at the back, he de­signed a three-bed­room house for the slop­ing site with all the liv­ing and sleep­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion on one level lead­ing di­rectly on to the back­yard.

Un­der­neath, he made the most of the slop­ing site, ex­ca­vat­ing for a rum­pus room, lift, wine cel­lar and park­ing for three cars.

“The rum­pus room works as a self­con­tained flat, be­cause it has a bath­room so guests can come in and stay,” he says. “The own­ers use it as a sep­a­rate area for the grand­kids so they can make a mess.”

In the al­fresco din­ing space up­stairs, the laun­dry dou­bles as a bar when ex­tended fam­ily come to visit.

“We tried to max­imise the func­tion­al­ity of the spa­ces,” he says. “The laun­dry has a sink and a bench and it op­er­ates as a bar for par­ties.

“If you hide the wash­ing ma­chine out of view, it’s a nice clear space. It’s re­ally about max­imis­ing the use of these rooms.”

While the house is mod­est com­pared to many oth­ers in the area, Mark has paid close at­ten­tion to de­tail so that the own­ers can en­joy ev­ery­day lux­u­ries on a daily ba­sis.

“The idea was to max­imise the per­sonal lux­u­ries like the walk-in robe and the gen­er­ous en­suite,” he says.

Start­ing from scratch

While his team did the in­te­rior de­sign and fitout, leav­ing all your old things be­hind isn’t re­al­is­tic for many — so Mark de­signed for that.

“They had some nos­tal­gic things they wanted to keep so we de­signed a few dis­play cab­i­nets for things like the crys­tal col­lec­tion to in­te­grate it into the de­sign,” he says.

One thing they did leave be­hind though, was their high en­ergy bills.

“We went over and above with the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments, with a 10,000L rain­wa­ter tank un­der the drive­way and so­lar pan­els that pro­duce most of the en­ergy for the house,” he says. “There is also hy­dronic un­der­floor heat­ing and a gas fire­place plus re­ally good ven­ti­la­tion through the win­dows at the front of the house.

“Their en­ergy bills are next to noth­ing com­pared to the old house.”

Mark says this house was never about mak­ing a big ar­chi­tec­tural state­ment.

“I’ve had great feed­back from peo­ple on the street — they are sur­prised that you can have a modern house that still looks ‘homey’,” he says. “There’s some­thing warm and invit­ing about it. It’s not try­ing to be cut­ting edge — it’s softly in­te­grat­ing into the street.”

Liv­ing and sleep­ing ar­eas are all on one level with easy ac­cess to the back­yard.

Care­fully planned built-in join­ery in the dining room al­lows for dis­play while main­tain­ing an un­clut­tered look.

Bed­rooms are sim­ple but stylish with ev­ery­day lux­u­ries built in.

The kitchen is highly func­tional but has been de­signed to blend into the open-plan liv­ing area.

From street level, it’s a short run up the stairs to the liv­ing area. An in­ter­nal lift next to the garage makes mov­ing gro­ceries up­stairs eas­ier.

The com­pact back­yard is a pop­u­lar spot for re­lax­ing and en­ter­tain­ing.

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