A modern extension

Issue 26 Words: Rachael Bernstone Photography: Brett Boardman
Forestville, Sydney
  • Clerestory windows bring northern light into the south-facing addition.
  • The way you can see through the house makes it feel larger than its floor area of 160 square metres
  • Kitchen cabinetry is made with plywood chosen for its durability and local manufacture.
  • The modern addition contrasts with the existing suburban house, improving the thermal performance and providing space without increasing the size of the home too significantly.
  • Given the limited opportunity to bring northern light into the addition, eastern glazing lets in sunlight at breakfast time.
  • Two new decks offer different experiences depending on the weather and the season.

A love of American Modernism influenced the renovation of this house in suburban Sydney.

After raising three boys in their home in the northern Sydney suburb of Forestville, and discussing plans to extend for many years, homeowners Belinda and Chris finally bit the bullet and approached some architects whose work they’d first seen in Sanctuary.

“We’d been thinking about a renovation for a very long time – we were never happy with the flow of the original house. A renovation by the home’s previous owners had added a master bedroom with ensuite, but it was only accessible through the third bedroom. And while the living room at the front of the house faced north, the kitchen and rear deck were south-facing. Chris and Belinda just couldn’t see how best to extend to retain warmth and natural light. That’s when architects Carol Marra and Ken Yeh of Marra+Yeh came to the rescue.

Carol suggested the extension should step down the block to foster a greater sense of connection with the sloping backyard, and she proposed two new decks – one where the master bedroom had stood, and one at the rear – to offer different experiences depending on the weather and the season.

Drawing on Belinda and Chris’ appreciation of Modern architecture, especially houses by Marcel Breuer in the United States, the architects chose simple materials such as plywood, timber and rubber for the interior.

“The cabinetry and new ceilings are all Australian plywood made from [plantation] eucalyptus, which is strong, durable and local,” Carol says. “The kitchen flooring is rubber which is a durable and natural material that improves over time, while the stainless steel counter tops are very robust and acquire character with use.”

The new room is lit from the north by a clerestory window above the kitchen, while other windows and doors were carefully positioned to prioritise views and cross ventilation. A concrete slab floor provides thermal mass and contains hydronic heating for winter. The walls are lightweight timber framing with timber cladding externally and generous insulation between.

“Because of the high ceilings, clerestory windows and the way you can see through the whole house now, the way you experience the space is much bigger than its floor area of 160 square metres,” Carol says. “I think that generosity of space makes it particularly successful: it’s a small space that has a very big impact.”

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Cover of Issue 26
You can read more about A modern extension in Issue 26 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Marra+Yeh Architects

M Kerr

Project type
Alteration & Addition

Project location
Forestville, NSW

Over $300,000

House 180 sqm (incl. decks), land 800 sqm

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