Smart spaces, small home

Issue 30 Words: Verity Campbell Photography: Tim Swallow
Margaret River, WA
  • Recycled jarrah timber was collected from various salvage yards in the area, wire-brushed back and used in the composition of the eye-catching stair screen wall.
  • The kitchen overlooks the glazed wintergarten or conservatory and out to the north-west. The cabinetry was custom-made using timber from diseased marri trees, milled onsite.
  • Some internal ground floor walls are double thickness to allow for cavity sliding doors to save space.
  • The sunken living area looks out to the north and is one of many space saving design features of this Margaret River home.

An architect’s own home, set amongst the bushland of Margaret River demonstrates the value of restraint.

For architect Michael Sorenson a government buy-out of his home for a planned bypass offered an opportunity most architects only dream of: to design and build his new home from scratch. Michael and partner Britta chose a 3000-square-metre lot on the western reaches of their home town, Margaret River, Western Australia. The sloping lot had natural bushland at the western end, to which they added an orchard and espaliered fruit trees, chooks, and now, a beautiful new home.

Michael had long been working to angle prospective customers away from enormous holiday homes in Margaret River, a getaway spot popular with Perth’s wealthy. But arguments about saving on construction and running costs just didn’t seem to wash. Naturally, there was also fear of the unknown; the worry a small home would be cramped and restricting.

He decided to use his own home as a sustainability showcase. Here prospective clients could feel, touch and see the realityof a modestly-sized home built with nature in mind.

Michael’s vision took the shape of a ground floor with living room, kitchen and generous master bedroom with ensuite and walk-in robes. It also features a glazed wintergarten (conservatory), assisting to moderate the home’s climate.

The first floor features an expansive 60-square-metre home office with kitchenette and roof-top garden with glorious views of the countryside. This floor also has a separate entrance to provide flexibility: it can easily be turned into a separate dwelling if required.

Given that the average floor area of a free standing new Western Australian home is around 245 square metres, and growing, one of the key features of this home – its modest footprint – is one of the hardest to sell. While homeowners are often reluctant to downsize, Michael is optimistic his new home will help drive the message that small doesn’t mean cramped. He can show prospective clients the design principles he used to make this home airy and generous.

A number of prospective clients have already been showed through the home. The response has been fantastic, he says. “Only last week we had someone through who wants to build a house like this after seeing it.” Hopefully it will continue to act as a showcase for many years to come.

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Cover of Issue 30
You can read more about Smart spaces, small home in Issue 30 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Michael Sorensen
Owner builder
New build
Margaret River, WA
House 115 sqm; cellar 20sqm; first floor studio 60sqm Land 2800 sqm

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