Plant-filled courtyard connects steel and stone houses in Sydney

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Retallack Thompson, an Australian architecture studio, has completed the construction of a steel extension for a heritage-listed stone terrace house in Sydney. The project, called Steel House/Stone House, also includes the addition of a second house on the same property, creating a multi-generational family home. The design aims to create a village-like atmosphere with the original terrace house and the new steel-framed building positioned at either end of a narrow lot, enclosing a communal courtyard.

The extension to the sandstone building now serves as a home and studio space for the client, while the new steel house belongs to the client’s daughter. The goal was to create a home that could be jointly owned and occupied by both families, providing separate spaces for each while also allowing for shared areas. Mitchell Thompson, co-founder of Retallack Thompson, explains that the design provides spaces for work, retreat, seclusion, and communal gatherings.

To pay homage to the client’s career as a steel fabricator, a minimal steel deck extension was added to the existing stone house, which was converted to accommodate both a home and studio space. The original stone walls were preserved, but the interior spaces were rearranged to make room for a new bedroom and living space on the first floor, which opens onto a deck overlooking the central garden. The kitchen and bathrooms were relocated to the center of the floorplan, utilizing the disused chimneys as risers for plumbing, in order to allow for a more meaningful interaction with the outdoor spaces.

The ground floor of the stone house was converted into an office for the client’s architecture practice, with folding glass doors that open onto a gravel-filled area of the garden. A white divider separates the office from the lower portion of the family home, which includes a bathroom and staircase. A thin steel staircase connects the raised level of the garden to the first floor of the building, where a balcony coated in steel bars provides shelter and holds a swing. An open-plan living space with a white-walled lounge and a kitchen with exposed stone walls is connected to the balcony, and the upper level features two bedrooms and a bathroom.

At the end of the garden, a steel-framed building with sanded aluminum cladding serves as a secondary residence for the extended family. This three-story volume utilizes the narrow site by touching the walls on either end and maximizing the internal space with thin steel walls that contrast the existing stone walls. The lower level of the steel house contains a garage, while the upper level features a living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

Between the two homes, the garden is split across multiple levels and includes a raised area of planting with curving stone walls. The garden is meant to bring nature into the home and acts as a gathering space for both families. A deciduous Crepe Myrtle provides shade in the summer and allows for more light in the winter, while native evergreen ground covers provide consistent coverage throughout the year.

The landscape design is considered to be the focal point of the project, as it can be seen from both houses and above. It is the space where both families come together for conversation, meals, and play. This project showcases the innovative use of materials and thoughtful design to create a harmonious multi-generational home in a limited space.

Photos by Ben Hosking.

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