A Crumbling Cottage Gives Way to a Brisbane Home Brimming With Greenery

A Crumbling Cottage Gives Way to a Brisbane Home Brimming With Greenery

By Duncan Nielsen
A vine-covered terrarium acts as a portal, hiding this home’s entrance from street view.

In the Brisbane suburb of Highgate Hill, a 100-year-old cottage—set on eight-foot-tall stilts to meet the street—was crumbling into the jungle at its backyard. For architect John Ellway, it posed an opportunity. "The change in level meant that the former one-bedroom cottage could grow by inhabiting the open undercroft below," he says.

The resulting Terrarium House is a two-level, 1,130-square-foot home. A bridge leads into the first level, where private rooms are accessed from slatted wood walkways that overlook the main living areas below. Down the industrial, black staircase (and past ferns and trees) is the home’s undercroft, which opens completely to the backyard with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.

Many of the home’s materials and characteristics were formed by memories of the owners’ travels. "Most are unconscious connections that have only been realized after living in the house," says Ellway. Sliding and dividing screens and translucent glass surfaces invoke visits to Japan, while the home’s lush plants, blockwork, and semioutdoor bathroom are inspired by Malaysia and Singapore.

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A before photo shows the raised, dilapidated cottage. 

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