This architect’s home on a leafy street in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is an ever-changing work in progress that has evolved over the years to meet the needs of a growing family. In the seven years since architect Jeremy Bull, principal of Alexander & CO., and his partner Tess Glasson, marketing director at the same studio, bought the 1900s, semidetached Victorian terrace in Bondi Junction, it has undergone three dramatic renovations as their family has grown to include four young sons.
“The home is an exploration of ‘the unfinished,’ and it has grown to be totally symmetrical with our way of life,” says Bull. “It is so uniquely personal to our needs, and so much a machine for our living, that we miss it each time we go away.”
The 2,475-square-foot home is set on a fairly compact terrace block, and the couple wanted to provide the most amenities possible. “We also wanted to design a home that could fascinate us and our children as they grow up,” says Bull. “We wanted the home to be surprising for our children, and for them to understand a home as a thing which didn’t need to be ‘domestic.’ I think the boys appreciate the materiality of the space. They have enjoyed seeing each new iteration take place, and I have loved the way each of our boys has found something different in the same spaces.”
The first renovation was a major alteration, which reconfigured the home around an old gum tree in the rear garden—which has since died—and a due-west aspect. The second added a loft space as a fourth bedroom and rumpus space for the couple’s twin boys and the introduction of a fourth baby. The most recent renovation was an extension of the kitchen area to include a new laundry, sunken lounge, and dining area, and an external storage room for the growing family’s sporting equipment.
The home is split over two stories, but it actually incorporates four distinct levels. The public spaces are on the ground floor, which is divided into two sublevels. The living room, dining room, and laundry are located at the front of the home, while the open kitchen and a sunken lounge are located on a sublevel to the rear that opens out onto the garden. The first floor contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with an additional loft bedroom that is accessed via a concealed central stair.
To make the most of the relatively small footprint, circulation space throughout the home has been minimized. Where hallways are required, they play a dual role by acting as “theater space,” boasting either added width or connection to an external view. “We have placed rooms and usages in every nook,” says Bull. “Nothing is wasted.”
The most recent update replaced timber floors from the first renovation with stone tiles, skirting boards, and door thresholds, and introduced new pine and oak joinery. These robust finishes cope with the intense wear resulting from four children. “Although the home is constructed from quite low-cost materials, they have been used to celebrate scale and materiality,” says Bull. “The Carrera marble gets better as it scratches, and it offers a natural, pale, unprecious backdrop to the daily functioning.”
The open kitchen has also been designed with robust materiality in mind. It features poly surfaces that elegantly conceal storage, a stainless steel countertop, and a Carrera marble tile backsplash. A pine and oak fireplace sits beside the kitchen, creating a continuous line of graphic blocks of different materials within the minimal space.
A sunken dining and conversation pit with a bespoke timber-and-leather banquette is adjacent to the fireplace in the kitchen. This inviting gathering space opens out to the small rear garden through sliding doors that are seamlessly concealed when open.
“The sunken lounge provides a wonderful connection between our inside living space and our backyard,” says Bull. “It is the perfect place for the six of us to sit together and hang out.”
“I love that our home has grown with us, each new renovation unfolding as each son arrives,” says Bull. “It’s so specific to our needs, which makes living in it more special. We always conceded the home as something that would change over time—not something that would be static. The home is a canvas to which we continuously add. It is not intended as a finished home—just the next version.”