Instilled with an atmosphere of coastal calm, Palm Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects is a refreshingly modern Sydney ‘cottage’ anchored by the essence of its 1920s heritage.

Located in the well-established suburb of Vaucluse on Sydney’s South Head Peninsula, Palm Tree House has been resurrected from its bungalow origins as a home wholly aligned for contemporary living. Embracing its sunlit marine context, the cottage is a culmination of nostalgic domestic silhouettes, light-drenched spaces of soaring dimensions and a restrained sense of aesthetic clarity.

After a recent renovation that makes the most of its iconic views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Palm Tree House has been reinvigorated through a sensitive process of retention and innovation. The street facade has been whitewashed into crisp newness. A new metal roof is reminiscent of the original while introducing modernity, and timber detailing has been reinstated to the west-facing window sun hoods. Against a backdrop of verdant new landscaping and a quintessentially domestic white picket fence, the home remains true to its history without compromising on 21st century good design measures.

Palm Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

The living room features Spanish Chairs by Hans J. Wegner in black and a custom coffee table by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects. Artwork print: ‘Sydney Harbour’ 1980 by Brett Whitely.

Presenting in its original condition, the home began with the sensitive removal of 1920s decor such as wallpaper and lighting from the pre-arts deco era. At the same time, elements were retained for both beauty and posterity. This dedication to both the old and new personas of the home has ensured an authenticity that can all too easily evade the design process, removing character without sustaining relevance. Instead, Madeleine Blanchfield Architects has cast an eye of intention, repurposing spaces rather than removing them and allowing the conditions to lead to novel outcomes.

The existing bungalow was dark and included a rudimentary rear extension added in the 60s with vinyl flooring, small windows and a barrage of leaks. New spatial planning, achieved through a reestablishment of navigation, introduced much-needed openness, space and flow and emphasised the surrounding garden and the signature Sydney views beyond. Northern light has been dramatically maximised with the addition of a skylight in the main living space through which natural daylight pours, and stars are visible by night.

Palm Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

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Palm Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

An impressive skylight above the kitchen bathes the new rear addition in northern sunlight.

Madeleine Blanchfield Architects has evolved a brief to rework a heritage home in a way that captures the essence of its originality while abiding by modern design sentiments. In the process, the bungalow has shaken off its vintage air of neglect to resurrect its beauty even within a largely altered streetscape of residential affluence. The guiding principle for this is an intuitive ability to decide what stays and what goes. The existing pitched roofline, for example, informed a new kitchen/living/dining space which connects to and activates the back garden.

The reimagining of Palm Tree House is a liminal story. One which homages the past sets sights firmly on the future and finds relevance on the threshold between the two. It is a story that maps the transition of a home from one domestic sentiment to another, understanding that the surrounding streetscape and cultural context has an important bearing on both. 

Palm Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects

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