As a former fishing cottage, Manly House by James Garvan Architecture honours its century-old history while creating spatial contrast in a new addition.

Located in northern Sydney, Manly House by James Garvan Architecture fuses contrasting elements – indoor and outdoor, past and present, public and private spaces – to craft a calm and contemporary design resolution. The now light-filled alteration and addition reflects architect James Garvan’s optimistic and sustainable design approach, ensuring the home’s longevity for another hundred years.

Tasked with a heritage-listed fishing cottage, it was important for James Garvan Architecture to sensitively maintain the original structure while introducing modern elements to meld the old and new. “The connection between the old and new structures is delicate and, when viewed from the street, the addition plays a visually submissive role to the existing dwelling,” James says. The home’s traditional materials were reapproached through a contemporary lens; the original ornate finishes were streamlined by introducing timber cladding and industrial steel frames. 

Continuing the themes of connection and balance, James Garvan Architecture sought to create separate yet harmonious spaces. While the clients value communal living, they also appreciate moments of privacy and reflection. As such, the internal staircase creates a divide between the open living areas and reclusive private spaces. “The separability between the private and public spaces of the house will allow multiple generations of the client’s family to cohabit,” James adds.

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The kitchen features a Surface Gallery Savannah benchtop, Gaggenau cooking appliances, and a Fisher & Paykel fridge.

Blurring boundaries between indoor and outdoor was integral to the brief. Working with the landscape’s natural topography, James Garvan Architecture designed terraces that adhere to the steep and sloped site, connecting the levels while creating a seamless transition between outside and in. The exterior louvred facade maintains privacy while inviting natural light and lush garden views into the home.  

The home also reflects James Garvan’s sustainable design perspective. “During construction, very little of the existing building was demolished,” James says. “In every case, an approach of patching or repairing existing building fabric instead of demolishing it was taken,” he adds. Inside, hardwearing, low-embodied energy and recycled materials were prioritised, while the exterior louvres act as an ‘operable skin’, naturally ventilating the home. On the ground floor, thermal mass absorbs winter sun, released throughout the day, while deep eaves and shading systems ensure these areas don’t overheat in summer. 

James Garvan Architecture’s holistic lens extends to the landscape design that considers the local flora and fauna surrounding the home. The team focused on minimising any disturbance to the natural vegetation, improved the connection between the front and rear gardens and prioritised all native plants.

The client describes the resulting home as a beautifully composed, detailed, and tranquil expression of who they are. “Our careers in the city are particularly stressful, so coming back to a home like this makes an enormous difference to our everyday happiness.”  

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