A Brazilian Modernism-Inspired Balmain Home Extension
Balmain House by SAHA is a project of two parts: a renovated cottage facing the street, followed by a modern new pavilion.
When the clients, Leslie and Keith, purchased the Balmain site, it consisted of the rundown cottage positioned to the far west of the block, with a large concrete area overlooking a laneway to the east.
Rather than demolish and start over, architects SAHA saw potential to retain and restore the existing cottage, while creating a garden to the east and a new pavilion to the south spanning the width of the site. This would allow the rear to capture northern light and create garden views from every room.
‘We advocated for the existing cottage to be retained and renewed. This adaptive reuse was a necessity of the budget but was also a values-driven decision as it reduced new materials brought to the site and kept material in the original house from landfill,’ says Harry Catterns, partner at SAHA.
SAHA kept and celebrated as much of the existing cottage as possible, intervening only when necessary to reinsulate the ceiling, provide shading to windows, and insert windows into the hallway.
At the very front of the home, a new garage and study were added to provide extra amenity and shield the internal garden (to come) from the street.
As experienced builders, the clients were interested in experimenting and testing the limits of materials. This is showcased in the new concrete bridge that doubles as water storage and connects the existing cottage to the new pavilion positioned perpendicular to the cottage.
The architecture of the pavilion is reminiscent of Brazilian modernism in its minimalistic form, flat roof, and use of modern materials. Despite a ‘heavy’ material palette of mostly concrete and glass, a sense of lightness has been achieved through a dispersion of structural supports and subtle interplay of floor and site levels.
The pavilion mirrors the width of the cottage, garage, and study at the front of the property, creating a new garden/internal courtyard at the middle. Every room in this house now looks out to this lush space that features a circular in-ground pool and views of the Sydney skyline in the distance.
The client is thrilled with the home that has simultaneously enhanced the site, neighbourhood character, and their lifestyle.
‘The siting of our home has allowed everything we love about this block to become all that we wanted it to be,’ says Leslie.
‘I had imagined that great architecture could deliver serenity and beauty to the everyday. This project has confirmed this to us completely.’