Sydney Harbour House by Lawless & Meyerson

  • Sydney Harbour House sees the transformation of an 1800s cottage in the city’s Eastern Suburbs through the introduction of a contemporary addition by the team at Lawless & Meyerson and MHNDU.

    When MHNDU were first introduced to the original home it consisted of a cottage built in the 1860s known as ‘Customs House’ and a two-storey addition.

    By retaining the original 19th-century dwelling and demolishing the semi-recent attachment, MHNDU and Lawless & Meyerson have paved the way for a distinct new structure encased in glass and concrete, seamlessly connected to its heritage counterpart through a glazed atrium.

    The kitchen is a true entertainer’s delight, with Gaggenau appliances and the Osso Stool, designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi.

    A generous skylight in the kitchen lets light stream in overhead.

    Sydney Harbour House fuses period architecture with present-day design, balancing the two styles effortlessly with an innate connectedness through the glass roof. While it may possess some of Sydney’s most coveted views, the home maintains a sense of privacy thanks to its unique corner location. Lawless & Meyerson director Jo Lawless explains that as the new addition to the home designed by MHNDU wraps around the old, so you only ever see part of the contemporary build at once. “The new addition sits below the roofline of the old house – it’s very nicely integrated,” Jo says.

    In order to maximise the views, a spatial reshuffle of the main living areas was an immediate priority. The kitchen, living and dining room are now located in the second storey of the new build facing the water, sheathed with operable screens to filter the harsh sun and provide privacy. It’s these custom-designed screens by architects MHNDU that demand attention both internally and externally, creating an intricate shadow pattern inside and what Jo calls a ‘lantern’ effect from the outside. 

    With its prized Sydney views, the open plan living and dining area features the 412 Cab Dining Chair by Mario Bellini for Cassina and the Mad Queen Armchair by Marcel Wanders for Poliform.

    The outdoor furniture on the balcony includes the Natal Alu Sofa, Illum Lounger and Drops Side Table, all by Tribu.

    It was important that the materiality from the exterior to the interior was kept consistent. “We carefully chose simple, good quality materials and used them wisely,” Jo says. “Predominantly concrete, timber and marble; we wanted the materials to have a strong connection to the architecture,” she adds. Bronze steel frame windows, oak flooring, white walls and bluestone tiles also call on the prevailing modern Australian aesthetic that carries throughout the interior.

    Pulling off an alteration and addition as fluid and considered as this Sydney Harbour House is no easy feat. MHNDU and Lawless & Meyerson’s careful approach through scale and proportion achieves a gentle dialogue between the existing and new extension, without letting go of the home’s 19th-century charm.

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