The owners of Willisdene House in West Hobart, Tasmania, are a young couple who were looking to renovate and extend their existing house, which was over 100 years old. They felt that the outdoor spaces of the house lacked privacy, and that the living areas were too cold and dark. The husband is a enthusiastic cyclist, so they also needed to find a way to incorporate a bike workshop to the redesign.
Ten years ago, while sitting in the backyard of their old house, they discussed the possibility of a remodel with the directors of Melbourne– and Hobart–based studio Archier (who hadn’t yet established their practice, and were still students at the time). Since then, their brief has evolved to accommodate their young son and a pet Labrador.
The new design places the backyard at the heart of the project and reframes the relationship between the house and garden, embedding the landscape into the rituals of everyday family life.
The layout for the house is a continuation of Archier’s checkerboard plan that they developed for their earlier project Five Yards House, where the program alternates between built form and courtyards as the user moves through the spine of the building. The new courtyards flood the interiors with sunlight, frame views of the sky and Mount Wellington, and provide solar access for heating and crossflow ventilation for cooling.
"This dissolves the mass into the landscapes, while dividing functions," says Chris Haddad, product manager at Archier. "The interiors palette was largely client-driven, using robust and raw materials. The dark palette of the addition to the Willisdene house highlights the textures from the existing dwelling and focuses the eye outward towards the garden and view."
An elongated, north-facing pavilion extends to the west to bring daylight into the kitchen, dining, and sitting area. At the lounge, large picture windows present views of the central courtyard on one side, and a gum tree on the other.
Shop the Look
Efficiency was optimized through basic passive principles and careful material choices. Large, north-facing windows draw in the heat of the sun in winter, while the eaves protect against excessive heat in summer.
Operable windows encourage crossflow ventilation, and additional insulation was added throughout the original dwelling to increase its performance.
Archier chose simple and durable materials, and kept the robust and natural finishes to a minimum. A neutral color scheme provides a unique setting for the owners’ art and objects, and vintage and classical furniture.
"Throughout the space we have leveraged our experience of prototyping and producing products," says Haddad. "From our locally made Ashfield towel rails to the handmade ceramic basin collaboratively created with Lindsey Wherrett—here, the products are designed for the space, not the space for the products. The tones in the custom ceramic basin were selected from the undergrowth of Mount Wellington, adding a layered response to site and context."
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