Suburban treehouse

Issue 22 Words: Fiona Whitelaw Photography: Adrian Boddy Photography
Hornsby, NSW
  • A major challenge of the project for architect Ben Giles was to design the building to suit the existing site falls and maintain bush views to the west.
  • This pavilion-style treetop extension sits at the rear of a family home on a steep east–west oriented site in the Sydney suburb of Hornsby. The pavilion shields the existing house from hot westerly summer sun and is also a warm living space in winter.
  • A breezeway connects the open plan pavilion to the main house.
  • This treetop extension’s lightweight timber-framed construction and raised platform floor minimised disturbance to the bush below during the build process.

A lightweight treetop extension gives a young Sydney family a little extra space and a more comfortable lifestyle.

Brett and Joanne Green couldn’t have been happier when they bought their house in Sydney’s northern suburb of Hornsby.

“It was set amongst other houses but because it was surrounded by trees it really didn’t feel hemmed in,” says Brett.

However, when their first child Lara came along, the couple realised their little oasis could do with some help.

“It was a totally standard 1970s house with all the rooms facing into a central living area. It was noisy, and after Lara was born we got pretty tired with tip-toeing around after 7:30 at night,” says Brett.

Noise wasn’t the only problem. The small living room and poky kitchen of the three-bedroom, 100-square-metre house felt increasingly inadequate for their changing needs.

The uninsulated living and kitchen area, where the family spent most of their time, was uncomfortable year-round.

In summer an external wall exposed to the fierce westerly sun saw the living area heat up quickly and in winter uninsulated walls required them to push their ducted gas heating into overdrive.

In addition to making their home more comfortable, Brett and Joanne were keen to expand it with as small an environmental footprint as possible.

They wanted a second living space that maximised the available sun but also blended into the surrounding bush.

“I’d been reading about passive solar and energy consumption so I had a fairly clear idea that was the path we wanted to go down.

The problem was we knew that getting there was going to be tricky,” says Brett. The house’s location on a steep slope rising to the east gave the couple their sense of bushy seclusion but the ridge of the hill overshadowed the house.

An extension, they realised, would require attentive design to maximise solar access.

In response to Brett and Joanne’s brief, Sydney architect Ben Giles suggested a pavilion or ‘living pod’ extension to the back of their house.

A combined kitchen, dining and outdoor area, the resulting treehouse pavilion is a light and airy second living space that connects to the existing house through an enclosed breezeway.

A large deck skirts the breezeway and joins the old and new parts of the house, providing a spacious and semi-shaded outdoor living area.

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Cover of Issue 22
You can read more about Suburban treehouse in Issue 22 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Design: Ben Giles Architect
Builder: Coolibah Building & Design

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