In recent years, a number of Sydney’s beautiful warehouses have been lost to demolition—which is why architect Ian Moore was elated to win a competition to adapt an enormous warehouse in the inner-city suburb of Redfern. The brief called for a four-bedroom family home with self-contained guest accommodations, a home office to be used as an equine genetics laboratory, and a large garage for a collection of classic cars.
The clients—a couple with two young boys and a large dog—both work from home and spend a significant amount of time in the warehouse. She works as an equine geneticist from a laboratory on the lower level, while he spends a lot of time tending to the automobiles in the garage.
Built in the early 20th century, the two-story warehouse had been used for many years as a gas meter factory, and for a short period of time as a Vegemite warehouse. It was then converted into an art gallery, an architect’s office, and a residential apartment in the 1990s, and it was used by an advertising agency before the clients purchased it.
"The renovations had not been particularly sympathetic to the original building," says Moore. "The original brick walls were sheeted over, a number of different floor levels were introduced, and only one wall in the entire building aligned with the existing roof trusses. Concrete columns and a large steel truss had been constructed that did not align with the original trusses and even clashed with original window openings. A number of the large roller door openings had been bricked up, and a very unsympathetic rusting steel canopy was added over the street entry."
During the renovation, the entire 1990s addition was removed to reveal the original structure, and the whole home, including outdoor space, was constructed within this shell. The residence is split over two levels, with the main living spaces and bedrooms arranged on the upper floor—essentially creating a single-story home. The separate guest accommodations and services, including the laboratory and garage, are located on the lower floor.
The warehouse has always had two street addresses, which allows the house and the laboratory to have separate entrances and identities. The garage occupies the northern half of the lower level with rear lane access, and it’s connected to the house via a tall pivot door behind the stairway.
At the top of the stair is an open living space—with large timber roof trusses—that runs the width of the building and opens out to a terrace. The more private bedroom spaces are arranged across the southern face of the building.
"They wanted to retain the industrial feel and large open spaces of the original warehouse, but with modifications to make it acoustically and thermally comfortable," says Moore. "They specifically did not want any luxurious finishes and asked that there be no marble, timber, or black finishes used in the renovation."
The color scheme for the interior was developed to code what is original, new, or reworked. "The original brick walls were revealed, and the new walls were painted white and carefully detailed with shadow lines where they meet the original walls and trusses," says Moore. "The clients’ favorite color is orange, and I introduced as much orange as I could in one element with the very large modular sofa." Playful use of color can also be found in the red stopcock taps and hangers in the bathroom.
The flooring—composed of gray cork sheeting tiles—was chosen as it’s an easily maintained color. "Originally, the main stair was to have been gray as well," says Moore. "But, when we discovered that the cork also came in International Safety Yellow, which was an exact match to the stair nosing that we were using, it was quickly decided to make a bigger statement."
Outdoor space with real grass was a critical component of the project so that the boys and dog had somewhere to play. The two exterior spaces—a large internal courtyard and a terrace—were formed within the original shell of the building, and are essentially outdoor rooms.
The internal courtyard contains a small lap pool and is accessed off the half-landing of the main stair, allowing both the upper living areas and the guest suite on the lower floor to feel connected to the outside.
"The internal courtyard is critical to the design, as it allows both natural light and ventilation to the spaces that surround it, as well as providing a very pleasant view into the landscaping and the sky," says Moore. "The rear terrace forms a direct and almost seamless extension of the living space, with the large glazed doors sliding away to allow free movement between inside and out."
A comfortable interior environment was paramount, as the clients had lived in the space for a year before the renovation and it was freezing in winter and boiling in summer. "We introduced significantly improved thermal insulation to the roof, high-performance glazing to all windows and sliding glass doors, and installed external adjustable aluminum sun control louvers to all north- and west-facing windows," says Moore. "There are also large banks of operable glass louvers around the internal courtyard which, in combination with the existing windows around the perimeter of the building, allow significant natural cross ventilation through the space in summer."
"I had admired this warehouse for many years, and I loved bringing it back to life by simply highlighting everything that was great about the original building," says Moore. "I particularly enjoy working on adaptive reuse projects, and I lament the number of great buildings, such as this, that have been lost to demolition in recent years. Hopefully I will get to work on more projects like this in the future."
Builder: Elliott Projects
Structural Engineer: Benvenuti SC
Landscape Design Company: Outdoor Establishments
Interior Design: Ian Moore Architects
Photographer: Rory Gardiner