Arches, Curves, and a Spiral Staircase Define This Sculptural Australian Home

Arches, Curves, and a Spiral Staircase Define This Sculptural Australian Home

By Laura Mauk
Chenchow Little architects devise a wondrous and efficient home for a family of five in Sydney.

In Sydney, Australia, architects Stephanie Little and Anthony Chenchow designed a family home that’s as artful as it is practical. "The clients are patrons of the arts, and they wanted a sculptural house that let in plenty of sunlight and that would still be functional for young children," Little says.

The Glebe House by Chenchow Little architects is defined by its arched windows and wedge-like form.

Located in the western inner suburb of Glebe, the house perches on a sandstone cliff and features views of Sydney’s glittering skyline. As remarkable as the views are, the series of curves and arches that define the home are equally striking.

"The existing weatherboard cottage, which had portions of its cladding replaced with asbestos sheeting, was dilapidated beyond repair and infested with termites," Little says. The architects tore down the existing construction and replaced it with a 2,163-square-foot home clad in white-painted vertical timber boarding that replicates the materiality of traditional Victorian cottages in the area.

A ribbon-like spiral staircase leads from the open-plan living area to the second level, where the bedrooms are located.

Smooth concrete flooring offsets the verticality of the timber boards that cover the interior and exterior walls.

The home’s form—similar to that of a triangle with blunt points—was informed by the wedge-shaped lot and the sight lines of the houses around it. "Our key challenge for this project was typical of an inner-city site," Little says. "We needed to get sunlight into the center of the floor plan while framing views of the outdoors and avoiding the closely sited neighboring dwellings."

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The window in the open-plan kitchen/dining space takes the form of an inverted arch, framing treetops around the site.

The wide upper portion of the arched window in the kitchen/dining space brings sunlight into the interior.

The wedge-like home has large, curved openings that reference the traditional arched windows and entrance porticos of neighboring Victorian houses. But unlike traditional Victorians, some of the arched openings are inverted. 

"The arched windows on the elevation align with arched cutouts in the floor plate to create three-dimensional internal voids within the space," Little says. "The double-height voids maximize light penetration into the center of the dwelling and add to the sense of space." 

The architects used the arched geometry to help frame and edit views of the landscape around the house. "The upturned arches have the greatest width at the top, where there’s abundant light," Little says. "They focus views to the canopies of trees, while screening the street and neighbors’ windows and boundary fences. An arch can also be pushed and pulled to suit different room sizes and heights."

The white-painted timber-and-steel spiral staircase carries the residents from the public rooms on the first level to the private areas on the second floor.

The curved form of the stair and the railing reference the arched windows and some of the interior walls.

Inside, the architects employed vertical timber mullions to structurally support the arched windows. "The vertical mullions of the windows also reinforce the verticality and rhythm of the cladding and help to abstract the facades," Little says.

The windows in the bedrooms frame treetops, allowing for privacy.

The arched windows provide a treehouse-like experience for some of the bedrooms.

The trees around the home help to filter and soften the sunlight that pours into this bath on the second level.

A white-painted spiral staircase mimics the curves of the arched windows as it twists from the open-plan kitchen/dining/living area on the main level to the second floor, where the bedrooms are located. "The stair is timber framed with steel bracing and a set plaster finish," Little says. "A rear covered outdoor space continues the materiality and language of the interior spaces. The arched windows of the external space are unglazed, and the vertical mullions are designed to provide support for climbing plants."

The rear facade features a covered outdoor area. An arched opening connects to the interior on the backyard.

Related Reading:

Arcs of Concrete Swoop Down Like Curtains in This Crisp Belgian Home

Concrete Arches Shroud a Minimalist Forever Home in a Melbourne Suburb 

Project Credits:

Architecture and Interior Design: Chenchow Little / @chenchowlittle

Construction: Lochbuild/@lochbuild

Structural Engineers: Benvenuti Structural

Civil Engineers: Taylor Consulting

Landscape Design: Spirit Level

Cabinetry Design and Installation: North Shore Custom Cabinetmaking

Window Manufacturer: Windoor

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