Images: Simon Wood. Click for more photos

The Drawing Board: Bronte House by ASA Architects

Images: Simon Wood.

  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.
  • Images: Simon Wood.

Visiting a newly renovated house in Bronte this week raises a series of questions regarding 'architectural presence': how important is it, and how do you achieve it in a building lacking any? 

In this instance, the old family home was a shrinking violet suffering "no street presence" according to both owners and architect - failing to reflect the family's sociable nature and engagement with their local community. 

Brief 

Andrew Schultz of ASA Architects was asked to transform the modest, single-storey house into a warm family home. The owner builders were experienced developers who wanted a home that better engaged with their oasis-like garden, and that had a definite street presence. It must pump light into the house, and allow the display of an impressive art collection, while nodding to an architectural era they loved, and in which the house was built: the art deco period. 

Challenges

The north-facing site was long and narrow and in a gully, with access issues. Topographically, it was a saddle: raised at the north, sunken in the middle and raised to the south. It faced a busy street, with sewerage and stormwater pipes underneath, and, a proliferation of plants and trees at the rear. The original dark house cowered below street level, failing to capture light and ventilation. 

Critically, it failed to engage with the rear garden, filled with frangipani, palms, avocado, magnolias, and a neighbouring fig tree. 

Solution

Two north-facing rooms were retained, with the remainder demolished. All new spaces were placed over three levels, and the house drawn up to the street and light - immediately improving the home's street presence, and access to natural sunlight and ventilation.  

A master suite and bedrooms/bathroom for younger children were positioned on the entry level; living and dining spaces, along with bedrooms and bathrooms for two older children on the next split level, opening to the pool and deck; and, storage, children's playroom, wine cellar, library and guest accommodation on the below-street level, opening to the garden.

To heighten the home's street presence, an oversized steel structure was used to frame an oversized front door; with a small steel framed slot-window balancing this on the eastern elevation - giving the house a unique character. A skillion roof with large overhang, heightens the effect while effectively drawing light and air into the heart of the home.

Where possible, the house was opened to the landscape. A wall of fine iron and glass doors line the rear wall of the living area, offering unobstructed access to the pool, deck and backyard; upstairs, floor-to-ceiling retractable doors offer access to a full-width balcony.

Artworks are shown off to best effect through a double-width entry hallway, featuring west-facing clerestory windows to increase light and air. 

Art deco features are incorporated throughout in a subtle and delightful way. Curves abound: in stair handrails, walls, timber entry and rear decks, front door handles, bathroom and bedroom fittings, and joinery. 

Builder: To the Mil, tothemil.com.au

trish.croaker@gmail.com