The owners of the Bardon Residence came to Kieron Gait Architects with a delightfully simple brief saying, “We want to be in the garden.” Designers Kieron Gait and Leah Gallagher were presented with a two-storey Queenslander, home to a young family of four. As it stood in its original form, the upper storey housed the main living and kitchen areas. Downstairs, a secondary living area and kitchenette opened onto the garden, and it was the clients’ desire to shift the home’s nucleus to the ground floor to allow direct access to outdoor living. Essentially, the home was to be turned upside down. The architects and clients enjoyed a collaborative design process, where ideas were taken on board and allowed to develop over time. To allow for the replanning, the original internal staircase was shifted to a central point in the home, where it now acts as “the pivot point that connects all space”, according to Kieron Gait Architect Wei Shun Lee. The shifting staircase also allowed for the upper floor to be replanned. A family and study area surrounds the top of the staircase, and the master bedroom was allowed to grow, with room for an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe. Walking downstairs, the view is directed straight into the garden. Central to the aesthetic of the renovation was the colour palette, driven by the clients’ desire for a dark floor. “Contrasting the elevated white Queenslander, the materials gather their appropriateness from both the context of the lush vegetation beyond and the undercroft,” says Kieron. “The focus on the garden views becomes heightened against the dark palette. Instead of reflecting the afternoon sun, the natural materials absorb the light and provide a rich lustre.”
The ground floor takes on an L-shaped plan. “The lower level provides an open environment with very simple flow but allows for different experiences within the space,” says Kieron. “The different spaces are visible and are very open, but discreet and allow for different scales of space for family life to occur.” With its deepset kitchen, dark textural surfaces and proximity to the garden, it heightens the sense of “inhabiting the undercroft” of the home — a notion familiar to all those who have lived in Queenslander homes. Beyond the planning and aesthetics of the home, the value of the project was an important constraint. The clients had a long-term vision for their time in the home for it to last the next 20 years as their primary family dwelling, the design solution had to be “durable, practical, flexible and enduring”. These factors were considered in all decisions, particularly in material selection. Materials like spotted gum and bluestone were chosen for their durability, while other materials were recycled. Since moving into the completed home, the family has commented that they “don’t want to leave the house”. There can surely be no greater compliment to the designers. Not only is the new home reminiscent of the clients’ own childhoods brought up on bush blocks (even while in the inner city), it has also become the natural meeting place for friends’ social occasions.
Words by Alice Thompson | Images by Christopher Frederick Jones