An Architect’s Home in Bondi Evolves Over Three Renovations to Suit a Growing Family

An Architect’s Home in Bondi Evolves Over Three Renovations to Suit a Growing Family

By Mandi Keighran
Over the past seven years, Australian architect Jeremy Bull has renovated his home three times, describing it as a “scaffold for a growing family.”

This architect’s home on a leafy street in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is an ever-changing work in progress that has evolved over the years to meet the needs of a growing family. In the seven years since architect Jeremy Bull, principal of Alexander & CO., and his partner Tess Glasson, marketing director at the same studio, bought the 1900s, semidetached Victorian terrace in Bondi Junction, it has undergone three dramatic renovations as their family has grown to include four young sons.

The home presents as a simple terrace cottage to the street, however it opens up to a surprising and textural collection of volumes inside. It steps down the gently sloping site toward the western garden, where stairs create small amphitheaters for sitting.

"The home is an exploration of ‘the unfinished,’ and it has grown to be totally symmetrical with our way of life," says Bull. "It is so uniquely personal to our needs, and so much a machine for our living, that we miss it each time we go away."

The home’s philosophy was inspired by the works of Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn. The use of locally available and low-cost pine and Carrara stone gives it an almost Scandinavian sensibility, which the couple describe as "Scandi meets carpentry modernism."

The 2,475-square-foot home is set on a fairly compact terrace block, and the couple wanted to provide the most amenities possible. "We also wanted to design a home that could fascinate us and our children as they grow up," says Bull. "We wanted the home to be surprising for our children, and for them to understand a home as a thing which didn’t need to be ‘domestic.’ I think the boys appreciate the materiality of the space. They have enjoyed seeing each new iteration take place, and I have loved the way each of our boys has found something different in the same spaces."

The ground floor steps down to the kitchen and sunken lounge at the rear, and an exposed timber ceiling adds texture and rhythm to the interior. "I have always loved expressing the structure of things," says architect Jeremy Bull. "This comes up in most of our work—it is a general theme of my thinking."

The first renovation was a major alteration, which reconfigured the home around an old gum tree in the rear garden—which has since died—and a due-west aspect. The second added a loft space as a fourth bedroom and rumpus space for the couple’s twin boys and the introduction of a fourth baby. The most recent renovation was an extension of the kitchen area to include a new laundry, sunken lounge, and dining area, and an external storage room for the growing family’s sporting equipment.

A view toward the casual living room at the front of the ground floor. Sliding pocket doors completely open the space up to the exterior.

The ground floor is split over two sublevels, with the kitchen and sunken lounge on a lower level that opens out to the rear garden.

The home is split over two stories, but it actually incorporates four distinct levels. The public spaces are on the ground floor, which is divided into two sublevels. The living room, dining room, and laundry are located at the front of the home, while the open kitchen and a sunken lounge are located on a sublevel to the rear that opens out onto the garden. The first floor contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with an additional loft bedroom that is accessed via a concealed central stair.

The twins’ loft bedroom features a Scott Rug by Wallace + Sewell, and an ILOT stool by Amaury Poudray for Ligne Roset.

To make the most of the relatively small footprint, circulation space throughout the home has been minimized. Where hallways are required, they play a dual role by acting as "theater space," boasting either added width or connection to an external view. "We have placed rooms and usages in every nook," says Bull. "Nothing is wasted."

This nook in the kitchen area features storage concealed behind bespoke oak joinery and a Quaderna Bench by Superstudio for Zanotta decorated with various objets d’art.

A reading nook in the living room makes use of otherwise dead space and offers additional storage.

The most recent update replaced timber floors from the first renovation with stone tiles, skirting boards, and door thresholds, and introduced new pine and oak joinery. These robust finishes cope with the intense wear resulting from four children. "Although the home is constructed from quite low-cost materials, they have been used to celebrate scale and materiality," says Bull. "The Carrera marble gets better as it scratches, and it offers a natural, pale, unprecious backdrop to the daily functioning."

Shop the Look

Carrera marble tiles in four different scales can be found throughout the home—including in the bathroom, the kitchen and sunken lounge, and the backsplash.

The open kitchen has also been designed with robust materiality in mind. It features poly surfaces that elegantly conceal storage, a stainless steel countertop, and a Carrera marble tile backsplash. A pine and oak fireplace sits beside the kitchen, creating a continuous line of graphic blocks of different materials within the minimal space.

In the kitchen, oak joinery and a minimal fireplace sit within a neutral, low-cost pine plywood wall.

The most recent renovation utilizes reasonably low-cost materials, such as pine, oak, and Carrara marble, to create a simple and cohesive palette.

A sunken dining and conversation pit with a bespoke timber-and-leather banquette is adjacent to the fireplace in the kitchen. This inviting gathering space opens out to the small rear garden through sliding doors that are seamlessly concealed when open.

A gentle site crossfall offered an opportunity to experiment with internal level changes. "I just loved the idea of a conversation pit," says architect Jeremy Bull. "It is a quirky oak and leather bench which gets used for most of our sitting, meals, board games, and spilling things."

"The sunken lounge provides a wonderful connection between our inside living space and our backyard," says Bull. "It is the perfect place for the six of us to sit together and hang out."

The bespoke joinery of the custom oak and leather banquette was inspired by simple Scandinavian forms.

"I love that our home has grown with us, each new renovation unfolding as each son arrives," says Bull. "It’s so specific to our needs, which makes living in it more special. We always conceded the home as something that would change over time—not something that would be static. The home is a canvas to which we continuously add. It is not intended as a finished home—just the next version."

The casual living room on the ground floor features a vintage cane chair, a Togo sofa by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset, and a portrait titled Matriarch by contemporary Danish artist Henrik Godsk.

The two living rooms at the front of the home sit on slightly different levels. The more formal living room features a linen sofa by Pure Interiors and classic CH22 and CH26 timber chairs by Hans J. Wegner for Carl Hansen & Son.

Ground-floor plan of Bondi Junction House by Alexander & CO.

First-floor plan of Bondi Junction House by Alexander & CO.

More from Alexander & Co.:

An Australian Vacation Villa Gets a Sophisticated New Look 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Alexander & CO. / @alexander_andco

Builder: Fairweather Constructions

Lighting Design: Alexander & CO.

Interior Design: Alexander & CO.

Cabinetry: Jonathon West

Cabinetry: Make Bespoke Joinery

Photography: Anson Smart

Styling: Claire Delmar

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