Bellevue Hill by Pohio Adams Architects

  • Built in the late 1930s, this two-storey house in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill, has been completely reworked. Renovated and extended by Pohio Adams Architects, with gardens designed by Dangar Barin Smith, it’s now a fine fusion of period and contemporary for a couple with daughters.

    Architect Bianca Pohio, who worked closely with her life and business partner, architect Chris Adams, says the house had been added to over the years, including the first floor trying to mimic the original place. While there were sufficient bedrooms, there are now ensuites for each one, separate living areas and, importantly, the ability to reach the house through the garage rather than traversing the front garden. “The other concern was the number of levels across the property, with many of the living spaces not connected to the garden and terraces,” Bianca adds, who was keen to address the home’s other shortcomings – a lack of natural light.

    Although the house appears to be relatively intact, only three of the original rooms have been retained in the renovation, along with the exterior walls of the first floor. These original rooms remain, with their high decorative ceilings: one used as a formal sitting area, another as a study and the third as a guest bedroom.

    However, subtle contemporary moves have been made to these rooms, including new oak skirting boards and, in some places, new built-in joinery and brass detailing, all designed by the architects. “It was one of those special projects that allowed us to create that level of detail our clients were looking for,” Bianca says, pointing out the Venetian plaster wall that frames the new oak treads leading to the bedrooms, including the main bedroom, ensuite and walk-in dressing area.

    As the back garden is orientated to the south, it was an opportunity to frame the new open plan kitchen and living area with generous steel and glass windows and sliding doors. A large skylight over the living area offers views of the trees and clouds moving over the sky. Referred to as the ‘pavilion’, there’s a soft, even southern light throughout the day. “This orientation is ideal, particularly in Sydney, where it can be uncomfortable with the harsh afternoon sunlight,” Bianca says.

    The kitchen, the focal point of the house with its marble island bench, is a place to which the family regularly gravitates. And rather than seeing the laundry as simply a utilitarian room buried in a basement, it occupies a prime position adjacent to the kitchen and features a customised lacquered credenza that would be equally as comfortable in a dining or living area. Accessed from two sides in the kitchen, it can also be screened off with a large sliding mirrored door should the owners be entertaining family or friends. And while the washing machines are displayed, items such as the fridge, walk-in pantry and cool-room are concealed behind a bank of bluish-coloured cupboards in the kitchen.

    Unlike some renovations where there’s a singular colour palette and treatment throughout the entire house, here each room has been thoughtfully expressed to respond to the light, the feel of each room and, importantly, how each space is used and who by. The front sitting room, for example, benefiting from the strong afternoon light, features soft pale grey walls, while the front study is dark and moody with new wall-to-wall built-in bookshelves.

    Other rooms, such as the sumptuous main bedroom that benefits from both city and harbour views, features a dark palette to accentuate the aspect. However, this renovation is considerably more than a number of deft touches. “The brief slightly expanded. But with children staying at home for longer periods, the renovation had to account for the family living under the one roof for considerably longer,” Bianca adds. And given the result, it’s unlikely that anyone will be moving out any time soon.

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