What was once a run-down brick workers cottage in Sydney’s inner-west has been transformed into a contemporary suburban oasis. However, before coming into its own, the JJ House endured nearly a century’s worth of alterations. The most recent renovations by Sydney-based architects Bokey Grant comprise a sensitive ‘undoing’ of these various outdated alterations and resurrecting the home through sustainable modern design. The finished product reflects and celebrates the original heritage fabric while embracing a reinstated sense of individuality.
The kitchen is made deceptively larger by its integration into the garden, one way in which the home optimises space.
The house’s original layout has been maintained with a simple loaded corridor plan. At a mere 108 square metres, the house is small but comfortably accommodates three bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry, kitchen, and generous living and dining area. An ongoing engagement with the garden is pivotal to the sequencing and opening up each of these spaces. The kitchen, especially, has been cleverly rotated to address and accentuate the side boundary of the property, utilising an area of the garden that is often overlooked. Bokey Grant co-director, Jeffrey Grant, refers to the garden as “the central room” of the house, “which all other spaces orient and organise around.”
In addition to connecting the house to the garden, Bokey Grant were also occupied with optimising space and ensuring privacy. This came in response to the client’s wish for a home that would nurture the needs of a young family living in the city. As a result, the family can enjoy a sense of stillness and seclusion from the world around them – an escape from the city, if you will, within the city. The client fondly describes the feeling of entering the house as “arriving home from city bustle to our own little oasis”.
Glass sliding doors invite the outside in and the inside out, anchoring the home to nature.
The original hallway has been retained as the organisational spine of the house, establishing flow and functionality.
Finding the balance between renewing and preserving required a minimal approach to the home’s interiors. Heritage light fittings and cathedral glass have been modified to belong in their new contemporary environment while still holding memories. A tan leather sofa and a backdrop of banana leaves evoke the atmosphere of a mid-century coastal retreat.
The house also sets a precedence for sustainable and environmentally conscious design, which Bokey Grant pride itself on. A significant portion of the home’s original materials have been retained and reused; nearby suppliers were chosen to support local industries and promote longevity; renewable energy systems are in place to reduce fossil fuel use. The home’s original footprint may be largely still intact, but its carbon footprint is made minimal.
The JJ House by Bokey Grant confirms that a sense of new and different can always be found in what already exists. So just as we now start to challenge ‘fast fashion’, we should also equally start to challenge ‘fast design’.