California dreaming: House Howley

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With its obtuse angles and off-centre ridge, the rear roof is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional gable form.

With its obtuse angles and off-centre ridge, the rear roof is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional gable form. Image: Tom Ferguson

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The kitchen, dining and living spaces pivot around the courtyard and open to a covered outdoor space.

The kitchen, dining and living spaces pivot around the courtyard and open to a covered outdoor space. Image: 444

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Materials such as polished concrete and black cedar complement the texture and detail of the original house.

Materials such as polished concrete and black cedar complement the texture and detail of the original house.

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Positioned at the centre of the house, the spacious kitchen offers a full scope of internal and external views.

Positioned at the centre of the house, the spacious kitchen offers a full scope of internal and external views. Image: Tom Ferguson

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The bungalow has been restored to retain both the character of the streetscape and its cosy, separate rooms.

The bungalow has been restored to retain both the character of the streetscape and its cosy, separate rooms. Image: Tom Ferguson

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Strategic vistas and subtle shifts in plan enhance informality and openness in this addition to a Californian bungalow by Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio.

Designed by Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio, House Howley has strategic vistas and subtle shifts in plan that enhance informality and openness and forge a stronger connection to the outdoors.

The kitchen, dining and living spaces pivot around the courtyard and open to a covered outdoor space. Image:  444

Influenced by west coast American architecture, the California bungalow represented a modern lifestyle in the inter-war period in Australia. It was designed for a more casual way of living with a straightforward, informal and open layout and a strong connection to the outdoors. Mark Szczerbicki Design Studio restored this California bungalow in Rodd Point, Sydney, and enlarged it with a contemporary two-storey extension that emphasizes openness, spatial relationships and garden views.

The previous owners, who lived in the house for fifty years, did very little to the bungalow, but added what Mark describes as “a series of awkward extensions at the back.” The new owners also intend to be long-term residents of the house and tasked Mark with creating a family home for their three young children to grow up in.

Their brief was simple: they prescribed the required spaces and how they wished to use them, and requested hardwearing materials. Beyond that, the design team had the freedom to develop the form, volume and plan of the house to meet the requirements of complying development. “We created a series of spatial transitions informed by the existing gabled roof to morph the building from traditional [design] at the front to contemporary [design] at the back,” Mark explains. These new and existing forms are configured around a central courtyard that allows northern sun into the rear of the house. Inside, Mark says, the team “kept micro-tweaking the spaces and relationships between rooms for how the clients wanted to live in the house.”

Materials such as polished concrete and black cedar complement the texture and detail of the original house.

Barely visible from the street, the two-storey addition sits atop and extends behind the original house. The pitched terracotta-tiled roof mimics the existing roof profile at the front, before stepping up and terracing down through the middle of the house, with terracotta and corrugated steel sections. The roof at the rear has an off-centre ridge and more obtuse angle, presenting as a contemporary interpretation of the traditional domestic gable form.

The existing bungalow has been respectfully restored to retain the streetscape, original mouldings and materials and the traditional character of cozy, separate rooms. It accommodates the family room, guest room and study, as well as the bathroom and laundry, which have modern styling and vintage details. The addition is organized with the kitchen, dining and living area pivoting around the courtyard and opening to a covered outdoor space, garden and pool. Bedrooms and bathrooms are upstairs.

Acute attention has been given to angles where the house transitions from old to new, enhancing openness and spatial connections. The glazed wall facing the staircase and courtyard is subtly splayed, as is the stairwell; the kitchen wall concealing the mudroom is slightly chamfered. The effect breaks formality, integrates garden views and allows sightlines into and through adjoining spaces.

The kitchen has a commanding position at the centre, with a full scope of interior and exterior views – to the courtyard in front, garden to the side and to the carport through the glass splashback behind. A double-sided fireplace defines the dining and living areas, and stacking glass doors open to the courtyard on one side and garden on the other.

The bungalow has been restored to retain both the character of the streetscape and its cosy, separate rooms. Image:  Tom Ferguson

The neutral and minimal interior scheme highlights the colour and vitality of the garden, which is integral to every view throughout the house. Designed by Melissa Wilson Landscape Architects, the garden, like the interior, transitions through a series of spaces, with flowers to complement the heritage of the front bungalow and pared-back planting to suit the contemporary architecture at the rear.

The material palette also balances the old and new; the low-fuss, low-maintenance selection complements the texture and detail of the original house with polished concrete floors, black cedar joinery, brown timber veneer and white aluminium window and door frames. Shiplap cedar cladding wraps in from the exterior to line the living room ceiling, and reclaimed brickwork from the former additions has been used for the ground floor of the extension, with one wall painted white, and a section in the dining area exposed as a feature – an artwork, in effect.

The stairs, with spotted gum timber treads to complement the original mixed hardwood floors, are designed to offer a spatial experience, providing views throughout the house. The hallway leads to the children’s bathroom and three equal-sized bedrooms. The main bedroom has an ensuite and walk-in robe, and a balcony overlooks the garden and pool. Finishes have been kept practical, with the focus on the generosity and relationship of spaces.

In its informality and openness, the alteration and addition of House Howley reflects the intention of the original California bungalow, “It’s about how the space makes you feel, how it relates to the garden and how comfortable it is thermally,” Mark explains.


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