Balmforth Residence

March 24, 2009

Designed by TERROIR ‘s Scott Balmforth, this dramatic family residence in North Hobart is housed within a saw-tooth roof warehouse.

This house for my family is within a former warehouse in the inner suburb of North Hobart. The narrow street has a contrast of industrial and residential uses, yet this is the first house in the street within an industrial building.

The existing saw-tooth roof warehouse had a concrete floor area of 300 square metres and behind full height metal sliding doors along the rear was a land-locked yard adjoining another vacant lot. The net rear yard was around 600 square metres. This facilitated a joint purchase with another family member where a dividing wall through the existing warehouse space would deliver sufficient space for two dwellings.

The change of use has maintained much of the former street-front character. The street-front austerity is fully intended to dramatically contrast with the unexpected interior; a readymade exemplar of the counterpoint between a blunt external form and a rich interior common to many Terroir projects. Whereas in the past this was due to tight budgets, this project involved a definite choice.

The project developed on and off over a three-year period – a lengthy gestation which is attributed to both attending to the demands of a busy office and the struggle and opportunity that is designing one’s own home. In the process one is confronted with many thoughts of past and present issues explored in the practice projects and the potential for innovation and exploration afforded by the opportunity to embark on a project where you are the client.

The new interior seeks to retain the character of the former use whilst meeting the demands for segregation and enclosure that come with providing a home for a family in a large, open shell that does not lend itself to fending off a cold Hobart winter.

Through-views from street to rear were crucial to maintaining the depth of space that was a privilege to inherit in the existing building. Most internal walls run parallel to the through views and establish a physical reverberation off the central wall dividing the two dwellings within the existing warehouse. Closed rooms such as the upper level bedrooms run along the dividing wall whereas in contrast the opposite side wall is relatively intact and runs alongside larger spaces which recall the openness of the warehouse.

The ‘hands-on’ approach during construction, with a builder who was familiar with our projects, enabled further development on-site. In particular, this enabled a degree of toying with various details that is generally not possible in projects. This toying is also a carry-over of the manner in which we approach design research at Terroir, using various mediums at hand, from CAD to cardboard. In this project, toying with cardboard in miniature was replaced with toying in full scale with things such as managing views and privacy through imperceptible changes in the ‘grain’ direction of expanded metal sheeting, fold out openings in existing metal clad doors like an advent calendar, right down to rock climbing grips as door handles.

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