Thoma House

Project status: Completed in 2017
Location: Dover Heights, Sydney

Photography: Brett Boardman

Houses Awards, Commendation Residential – New Houses Over 200m2, 2018

From the busy, unassuming, suburban street of Military Road the house reveals very little of itself. It presents as a protector of its inhabitants yet is gentle in its embrace, offering to the street delicate glimpses of its subtlety through carefully crafted openings.

This house is private but it is welcoming.

An entry sequence begins an unveiling of secrets. The path along one side widens to a double-height entry and a layered composition of windows—eyes looking out with purpose.

It is from inside that the house transcends its suburban streetscape and uncovers its coastal setting. Much time was spent with each fenestration to capture a moment and frame a view. Bondi to the south, the street to the east, and west to the city and the harbour. Considered openings are designed to offer various moments of surprise and delight with each outlook.

It is from the safety of the garden where the house finally reveals itself fully. The west elevation exposes itself to the environment, flooding the kitchen and living area in light. Deep eaves offer protection from the sun and frame expansive views of the Sydney skyline. The building steps away from the northern boundary at the rear to add a north facing aspect and terrace to the living space.

The plan lays the platform for the many facets of family life. Each member of this family of five can inhabit their own domain and come together for family living.

High joinery and low ceilings surrounding the level one entry void create private but light filled sanctuaries for reflection and solitude while generous spaces on ground level provide the stage for family life and entertaining. There are many spaces to live in other than the living room.

Collaboration with the craftsmen on site produced some of the more unexpected and refined details. Reverse brick corbelling gives breath to the curve under a window detail. In another moment, bricks step incrementally out to support a window, producing fine striations of shadow. The same brick, laid face up and exposing its extrusions, paves the entry path and outdoor terrace.

The design is founded upon the core sustainability principles of longevity and passive thermal comfort. Double skin brick walls and polished concrete floors offer the benefits of thermal mass. Operable elements including carefully positioned sliding doors, windows and hatches facilitate cross-ventilation. A simple palette of naturally finished durable materials ensures the house is low maintenance and robustly suited to the coastal environment, allowing it to stand for a long life. Brick, concrete and timber are given moments of extravagance through nurtured details.