Green gables in the heart of the city
A Victorian terrace gets a new garden in a most unlikely place, writes Catherine Nikas-Boulos
Thinking outside the square — literally — has allowed a Victorian terrace rooftop in Darlinghurst to flourish among other regular corrugated iron pitches.
Instead of standard steel, the gabled roof is growing native plants, including kidney weed, blueberry lily, bluebell and basket grass as part of a large attic conversion.
Growing from the rooftops
The homeowners, a couple with a young child, hired architect Anton Kouzmin to oversee the conversion and roof restoration after they noticed the roof was in a bad state.
They had only just finished work on their courtyard and loved the idea of continuing the growing theme. Council agreed.
The City of Sydney’s only condition was that the roof was in line with the neighbouring gable roofs that are all visible from the street.
“From a practical perspective it would have been far easier to do a flat roof, but we had to follow form,” Anton says. “The original DA went a little further than what we were able to do but in the end both the clients’ and council’s expectations were met.”
The rear of the property faced north and although they had the benefit of a park behind their terrace, there wasn’t much of a view.
“The idea was to place something there that was good to look at and maybe bring back some of the native species that used to be in the area,” Anton says.
The construction was timed so that while builders were on site in Sydney over winter, the plants were being grown in Victoria.
“The plants were transported here in spring, just in time for them to flourish in their new environment. As soon as the plants were brought in, the butterflies and insects arrived, which was fantastic,” Anton says.
Dan Harmon and Jane Irwin from Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture have set up a roof maintenance plan to keep it in check, while an irrigation system was also installed.
“The plants they chose all have a low profile,” Anton says. “You have to be careful A garden gable replaces the rotting roof and the attic gets a clean, modern makeover not to impact on the neighbours, and these plants don’t grow very high.”
A stainless-steel perimeter has been constructed around the garden “so things would not slide off”.
The only way is up
The ground floor was untouched but the first floor, including the master bedroom, did benefit from new joinery with built-in storage that runs the length of half the hallway and a new staircase. The main bathroom and two more bedrooms are also on this floor.
The ceiling height of the first floor was dropped from 3m to 2.8m to allow more attic space above. An ensuite was added to the attic.
The original brickwork can still be seen in the freshly renovated space.
“We made the decision to not cover the brickwork,” Anton says. “It used to be a dark, sad, old attic, but it’s come up so beautifully.”
The plants were selected based on native plant species endemic to the area.
A flat garden roof would have been easier to construct, but council wanted the terrace to have a gable roof like the neighbouring properties.
The attic was transformed from a nogo zone into a comfortable living space with an ensuite.
The first-floor ceiling was ripped off and lowered to 2.8m to give the attic more space.
Skylights are above the stairs to flood them with natural light.
The original brickwork contrasts with a crisp white finish of the new attic space.