A Brisbane Architect Designs Her Family’s Dream Home on a Tricky Suburban Site

On a sloped lot flanked by neighbors, architect Julie Derrick devises an open, L-shaped plan that frames views of the lush backyard.

Their small two-bedroom apartment wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Julie Derrick, architect and cofounder of Brisbane practice LADA, was getting ready to have another child, so she and her family started making plans that could better accommodate four instead of three.

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"We envisioned an efficient and functional single-story home without too much excess space," explains Julie. "We also wanted an easy and direct connection to a lawn and yard so that we could casually supervise the kids while they ride scooters in the driveway or play in the sandpit without stopping what we’re doing."

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Julie and her partner found a steep "battle-axe" block—a lot that’s set behind another, but still has street access, forming the shape of an axe—in the suburb of Red Hill less than two miles from the center of town. It was green and leafy, but a nearly 20-foot difference in grade diagonally across the site posed a challenge. Julie had to figure out a way to create a connection between the ground and the living areas.

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She resolved this by making the entrance slightly higher than the rest of the house. It leads to a louvered foyer that allows for both light and privacy, with a large window framing lush greenery at one end and a built-in window seat at the other.

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From the foyer is a sight line out to the sitting and dining rooms, where large corner windows provide a view out into the lush backyard. For a family with young children, it was important to have a visual connection between all living areas. There’s a lounge area on the left, and a dining and kitchen area on the right. A TV room is more tucked away off to the right in a separate area of the L-shaped plan.

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The kids’ bedrooms, accessed via the louvered entrance hall, are located past the lounge area and separated from the rest of the home to give them their own space. This also provides the primary bedroom and guest bedroom, located behind the kitchen and dining areas, with a sense of privacy—an important trait amid a busy family home.

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Julie created a mellow interior that responds to the greenery outside, using timber for the living area, and, for the ceiling, film-faced plywood that casts reflections of the yard. The black external shade hoods—designed to evoke the feeling of sitting beneath the shade of a Moreton Bay fig tree—help to frame the views, and emphasize the distinction between interior and exterior.

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"Opening up to the wonderful leafy views while maintaining privacy from our seven neighboring properties was a challenge," admits Julie. "Sight lines were carefully selected, and so too were the placements and types of openings." Even the bathrooms have a view of the greenery as they overlook a narrow garden space between the home and an adjacent property.

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Just as important for a family home, however, was durability. The children’s areas feature marmoleum and cork flooring that are easy to clean. Similarly, silvertop ash and concrete were chosen for their low maintenance and the way they will gracefully age over time.

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The project clocked in at roughly $720,000, and Julie admits it was difficult to keep costs down being both client and architect. Grading and shaping the site was especially costly given the irregular plot of land, but doing so achieved the desired effect.

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"Hopefully a home is both functional and pleasing to look at," says Julie. "But there is something to be said about the beauty you can get out of functionality and ease of use. Something that really works for the way that you live makes everyday life more joyous." 

Just two weeks after being in the house, the second child arrived. "Getting to know them has been really special," says Julie. "It’s just been great hanging out with our family, and seeing all the ways we use the different spaces!"

Floor plan of Red Hill House by LADA

Floor plan of Red Hill House by LADA

More from LADA:

This Family Home in Australia Is a Love Letter to the Sea

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: LADA / @lada.com.au

Contractor: Greg Thornton Constructions

Structural Engineer: Milanovic Neale Consulting Engineers

Cabinetry Fabrication & Installation: Viva Cabinets

Building Certifier: Mackie Consultants

Town Planning: Urbis

Photographer: Scott Burrows / @scottburrowsphotographer

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