Double Life House is just as its name suggests. From the outside, this 100 year-old terrace in Sydney’s Surry Hills sits snugly and inconspicuously among a row of Victorian terraces. A mild mannered exterior that appears untouched. It’s only when you step inside that the true identity of Double Life House is revealed. An interior of steel and strength; a fortress of solitude and calm designed to keep its two owners sane and block out the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
And it’s inside where a delightful and endless series of discovery and surprise awaits.
Breathe Architecture is the brainchild behind its intriguing design. The team’s talent in delivering a sense of seemingly limitless space, despite an extremely modest footprint, makes Double Life House all the more special.
“Double Life House discreetly incorporates hidden discoveries to achieve expansive living in the relatively humble plan. Like Superman’s Secret citadel, discovery awaits you at every turn,” Breathe Architecture says.
The floor plan is one room wide, with a small courtyard at the rear. But inside, the rooms are creatively divided, instilling flexibility in the home. Just past the entrance, there’s a sunken concrete living room whose ceiling has been pealed back to reveal the herringbone struts of the original floor structure to the rooms above. A stream of natural light invites you deeper into the plan, past the ‘cape’ – a red velvet curtain concealing the main stair – where the space opens up into the kitchen and dining area, and courtyard. Here a narrow concrete stair leads to another courtyard off the rear upstairs bedroom.
So, despite the modest terrace house footprint, there’s a great sense of openness and connection to the outdoors throughout –with not only the two courtyards, but also framed views of surrounding Ash trees and an upstairs outdoor shower surrounded by greenery, which opens up to the sky.
Retaining as much of the existing 100 year-old building was critical to creating the Double Life House identity. This required careful ‘de-materialisation’ – or stripping back and exposing – rather than adding superficial layers, to achieve simplicity. The sunken concrete living room with its exposed herringbone struts, revealing the room’s true identity, is a prime example. “Double Life House is about de-materialisation, simplicity and consideration. It works with the existing and any added materials are robust, honest and unpretentious to maintain the home’s integrity, strength, humility and longevity,” Breathe Architecture remarks.
Think mild steel, recycled timber floorboards, concrete, raw brass tap ware and herringbone brick facing tiles.
Robertson’s Building Products’ Midnight Blue brick tiles are used throughout the space, contributing to the robust and humble palette. Downstairs, brick tiles in the living room and courtyard create a seamless connection between inside and out. In the bathroom upstairs, the tiles offer a robust flooring solution in lieu of ceramic tiles.
Double Life House is a supreme example of expansive, flexible living in a compact space. For the owners, it’s their home and sanctuary. True to its name, from the outside, Double Life House keeps the people of Surry Hills, indeed the world, guessing, while on the inside it’s a beautiful, quiet place of retreat.
Architects: Breathe Architecture
Product: Midnight Blue brick tiles
Builder: Promena Projects and Ficus Constructions (Steelwork)
Photographer: Katherine Lu