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.

Shop the Look
Secto Design Octo 4240 Pendant - Walnut
The Octo lamp, designed by Seppo Koho for Secto Design, has a wooden shade which is hand-made from Finnish birch by highly skilled craftsmen. As the other Secto Design lamps by Seppo Koho, also the Octo lamp is well-known outside Finland as well for its clear Scandinavian feel.
Bloomscape Dracaena Limelight
Healthy, beautiful plants delivered straight to your doorstep  A couple well placed plants can go a long way toward making a space feel alive and vibrant, warm and cozy, clean and cool — whatever vibe you’re looking for, Bloomscape has the plants to help you achieve it. The plants spend the...
Ohlone Pop Pillow
Make it pop with our cotton accent pillow covers. Designed to provide the finishing touch to pull your bedroom look together and make your bed even cozier.

A before photo shows the raised, dilapidated cottage. 

Get the Renovations Newsletter

Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design.

See a sample