Bondi House by Fox Johnston reveals a blueprint for multi-level living within a compact corner site in Bondi’s leafy back streets.
Nestled on a narrow site hugging the Bondi ridgeline, sustainability-focused design practice Fox Johnston have reincarnated one of two Inter-war, semi-detached houses through integrated indoor-outdoor living and considered materiality. The confined, 153 sqm site presented a privacy challenge for the architects with a public walkway to one side and a two-storey semi-detached home on the other. Translating the difficult topography of this sloping site through three sculptural levels and a bold curved facade, Fox Johnston’s Bondi House affirms that good things often come in small packages.
The clients contacted Fox Johnston after living in the home for several years, with a vision to rework the existing structure to create an ‘interesting and flexible’ future. They hoped for a small and sustainable house that could serve their immediate family and comfortably cater to long visits from overseas parents without feeling on top of each other.
The home’s ground floor is wrapped in Sparrow Pecked sandstone – in keeping with the narrative of existing homes in the neighbourhood. The ground floor forms a plinth for the upper levels, containing a home office and private guest accommodation removed from the communal living areas on the floor above. The middle level plays home to the kitchen, indoor-outdoor dining space and living room punctuated by a central courtyard, while the private bedroom level above evokes a sense of serenity.
Fox Johnston director Conrad Johnston says the central courtyard on the main level was an early idea developed to gather light and segment the living level into zones without constructing walls – a concept introduced to dismiss the feeling of being in one long room. “The living level is conceived as a continuous ground-plane from the rear courtyard to the front balcony, to balance the site topography and make the space feel larger than it is,” Conrad says.
Materiality from the exterior is reflected inward and vice versa – copper panels clad the facade and reappear in the warm-toned exposed ceiling beams, western red cedar windows and doors. At the same time, concrete flooring extends from the living room out onto the balcony. “We aimed to achieve a cohesive language; instead of breaking up the flooring from inside to out, the concrete continues out onto the balcony, so when the doors are open, it feels like one space,” associate Brad Phillips says.
“The central courtyard was an early idea we developed to gather light and segment the living level into zones, which we think is more interesting in a small space, rather than that feeling of just being in one long room.”
– Fox Johnston director Conrad Johnston
Making the most of the central courtyard, the compact dining setting features the Gemla Vilda 3 Dining Chair, Sarah Ellison Dining Table, Lamella Pendant and artwork by Stefania Reynolds.
Fox Johnston extended the concrete from the living room to the balcony to create a feeling of lightness and unison. Pieces in this space include the BluDot Dog Days Sofa and Cirucla Low Side Table on the balcony, Henry Wilson Bronze Surface Sconce on the built-in TV unit and sculpture by Katarina Wells.
The new kitchen sits in the back of the home between the indoor and outdoor dining setting, making the most of the leafy rear courtyard. Conrad Johnston says the client’s main priority in this space was for a robust and workable kitchen that would adhere to the raw aesthetics of the home. Spotted Gum timber veneer cabinetry plays to the unison throughout, contrasting with the dark marble bench.
Fox Johnston sought a balance between functionality and aesthetic when selecting the hardworking heroes of the kitchen. “The kitchen in this house is very well used and central to the home, so appliances were naturally chosen for both their durability and timeless appearance,” Conrad says.
Fox Johnston concealed the refrigerator and rangehood for a seamless finish and specified the Bosch Series 8 Oven and Bosch Series 8 Flex Induction Cooktop for their streamlined and enduring qualities. “The Bosch appliances were a natural fit in the kitchen, as they have a clean, understated and refined aesthetic that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the space,” Conrad says.
The third level acts as a place of reprise and retreat, featuring the master bedroom and ensuite and an additional bedroom and bathroom. Wrapped in a curved copper wall, the upper level enjoys privacy from the public walkway below, chosen for the patina it will develop with time. “The copper wall is a big gesture for the setting and the street,” Conrad says.
Bondi House by Fox Johnston is a multifaceted family home that responds to the challenging site it inhabits through form, function and a deep appreciation for the outdoors.
Warm, earthy colours pervade the master bedroom and ensuite.
The right side of the home is wrapped in copper, providing privacy from the neighbouring public walkway below.