This Luminous Australian Renovation Packs a Lot Into a 23-Foot-Wide Lot
Looking at the traditional Victorian facade of Kylie Brammy and George Kyprianou’s home, you would never imagine it hid such a voluptuous and modern derrière. Physiotherapist Brammy and entrepreneur Kyprianou bought the North Adelaide house in 1999 because they loved its charm and location on the city fringe, close to parkland. Less desirable was its tiny kitchen, dark living spaces, and badly positioned toilet, just three feet from the dining table. Engaging both an architect and an interior designer to collaborate on a renovation and two-story extension, the couple managed to open up the interior and transform the back of the house into an improbably airy and light-filled retreat.
Kyprianou: The longer you live somewhere, the more you learn about its idiosyncrasies and potential. We lived here for several years before we started our renovation, which helped us understand what we wanted.
The rear of the original house was very dark, and functionally, the space just didn’t work. We love having friends and family over for dinner, but the tiny galley kitchen was only just big enough for two people to walk sideways past each other. There was only one bathroom—right next to the dinner table—so it was a bit uncomfortable when guests had to use it! We decided to open the whole rear of the house right up; it’s north facing, which here in Australia gives you beautiful sunshine all day long. We could see the potential in having a big, tall glass structure to let all the light and warmth in.
Around 2005 we approached Phil Harris from Troppo Architects, but they were too busy to take on a job with our modest budget. A couple of years later, we stayed in a Troppo-designed eco-resort in Broome; it had all the qualities we liked—sustainability, space, light, and ventilation. So Kylie called Phil again, and this time he agreed to come out and see us.
We bonded straight away. Unlike other architects we’d met, who came with their own set ideas, Phil sat down and asked us what we wanted. He came back with a little story he wrote about us—what we liked and who we were—so we were pretty chuffed. At that point we felt really comfortable with him, and he felt comfortable with us. We worked together really well.
Early on, Phil came up with the design that you see now. The original part of the house is only 20 feet wide, so we extended an additional three feet out to the boundary, which gave us room to put a light-filled guest bathroom and laundry in the middle of the original part of the house. The master bedroom floats on a mezzanine in the void above the living area, with a spacious en suite [bathroom] tucked behind it. To meet the local heritage requirements we had to mirror the roofline of our neighbors on the laneway side of the house, so the extension has a unique asymmetrical shape.
Kylie has a physio practice in an old warehouse in the city, designed by Susanna Bilardo from Enoki. We loved what she did there, so we got her to do the interior design of the house. Phil was happy to stand back and let Susanna work; she brought softness, comfort, and livability to the house, using lots of natural, warm materials like reclaimed timber and doors.
We also hung on to some original features of the house, like the historic facade and the original chimney. Our builder did a great job keeping the existing chimney upright when the walls came down around it. We love its wonky shape.
Brammy: I sensed the soul of the house the moment I walked through the front door at the first inspection. It had a story to tell—of happy lives and families—and we are continuing that story. As a physiotherapist, I realize the importance of life balance and our home helps to give this to us. It is simple, open, and flexible, and it supports our casual lifestyle.
George and I are both morning people. We love to wake up when the sun comes up and go to bed early at night. Our bedroom is up on the mezzanine level, making us feel like we are in a suspended tree house. At night we are so lucky to be able to see the stars and moon; we sleep so well up there.
Soil space is limited on our lot so I grow my veggies "secretly" among the other landscaping plants. I’ve planted lemons and oranges, espaliered along the fence that extends out behind the barbecue. I love our pool—it provides a "yin" element of cooling, moistening, and grounding to the house, in contrast to the warm and dry materials we’ve used elsewhere. I can actually touch the water from inside through the sash window at the end of the bench seat, which gives me a sense of serenity. Being connected to the environment is important to me.
Every time of the day feels beautiful here. In the winter, I try to be home for a few hours midday to enjoy the sunshine that streams in below the giant eave. We positioned the window seat in the northeast corner of the window so that as the sun goes down it catches the last rays. I often read there. When I stop and am still, the dogs love it, lying down below me on the floor.
Melbourne-based writer and interior designer Rosie Scott traveled to Adelaide to visit Kylie Brammy and George Kyprianou's renovated house (My House, February 2012). Despite it being midwinter, she managed to get sunstroke from drinking tea at their sundrenched dining table! Warm and woozy, she strolled from the house to the Adelaide Zoo. There Scott came face to face with its most famous residents, two giant pandas, who seemed to share her sun-affected sleepiness.