Project: Mosman House
Location: Sydney, Australia
Design: Hare + Klein
Text: Adrienne Hughes
Photography: Nicholas Watt
In what Robin Boyd coined our architectural era of ‘aboraphobia’, we also embraced a denial of view and, wherever possible, the exclusion of light. Lovely. Nothing better than a house on Sydney Harbour that has no view and neatly avoids any possibility for northern light! Dark, depressing and the antithesis of Asian living, which the owners were enjoying as expatriates.
As such the brief was to fill the house with light. More intriguing, however, was their request that this be achieved within a monochrome palette that would include some reflective surfaces, but ostensibly function as a continuation of their mostly black and white collection of art and artefacts. Moreover, while a dramatic result was required, it was also to be comfortable and warm.
Working with architect Nick Richter of Saturday Studio, Hare + Klein inserted a double-storey window to span the two floors of the staircase. And while this provided the much needed northern light, it also compromised privacy. Rather than obfuscate with a frosted or tinted glass, Hare + Klein project designer Hellen Pappas and design director Meryl Hare proposed a metal screen by Kif and Katast (Gingko, customised and hinged for ease of cleaning). The result is a perpetually changing shadow play that responds to seasonal and diurnal changes beautifully. Additionally, in allowing the sun to stream into the house, there is a sense of vitality returned to the space that a soft light would not have achieved.
That said, the penetration of the light, while absolute, is countered by the larger windows’ view into southern light. Effectively the internal volume, being both sheltered from and bathed in light, presides as a cool and calm intermediate space for living. Moreover, the architectural framing lent the space a particular air, as Meryl Hare explains: “The architect, Nick Richter, introduced some industrial components to the design, such as exposed ‘L’ beams with exposed bolts, which we embraced in the selection of finishes such as concrete, steel, basalt and stainless steel.” The result is an interior of tonal nuance of charcoals against white (Dulux, Natural White).
Wide floorboards (American white oak – Porters Hazelnut) and honed bluestone (800 by 400, Eco Outdoor) provide the foundational layer throughout, while site cast concrete (Class Aggregate Terrazzo and Marble) provides the sculptural form denoting the kitchen. This is augmented by Amerind’s Driftwood Cresto laminated cabinetry including the central island, which is topped with a bench top of Jaipur Thyme (Stone Italiana). BS-MON-MDO (matt dark oak) bar stools (Globe West) provide a suitably low profile to disallow visual interference. Reflective qualities are brought into play through a splashback of Vetro lux neutral 07 carbone tiles (Di Lorenzo). It is, however, the gathered arrangement of Tom Dixon’s Pressed Glass pendant lamps (dedece) that set a rhythm through the space, echoing the industrial tones while providing a visually exciting sculptural aesthetic.
Continuing these themes of robust form delivered within a minimally varied palette, cabinetry continues as a low partitioning wall to balance the living and dining areas. Effectively the room is an exercise in balanced geometries that counter the infinite view with the gravitas of the solid expanse and sculptural presence of the cabinetry. The counter move to their solidity is achieved through a pair of tondos – round artworks – and Marcel Wanders’ round Container dining table (Space Furniture). Maggie small chairs (Jardan) soften the whole, while the turned end of the Flexform Long Island modular lounge (Fanuli) acts as a neatly folded corner to counter the long cross line of the lounge. Effectively, the whole room is a series of moves and counter moves that enable the lower portion of the room to be active, while the upper expanse is sedate, composed and of an absolute clarity necessary to the contextualisation of the client’s art collection.
Sculptural form is in fact ever present throughout the house with textural variation key to both the simplicity and complexity Hare + Klein has achieved. The stone plinth and fireplace surround of honed basalt (Granite and Marble Works), for example, is a beautiful form. It is, however, singularly severe, until brought into the context of a working fireplace within a home where stacked timber adds texture, random pattern and nuanced colour. This is further developed with the whimsical shape of Molteni’s Clipper chairs (Hub) coupled with Gervasoni Log tables (Anibou) and a Balance floor lamp (Hub). Where the cool of a monochrome palette requires warmth, soft fabrics and rugs have been introduced. However, it is where this is not possible, the bathrooms, that Hare + Klein proves its expertise. Rather than propose a new iteration, much of the tiling, timber and stone is continued.
Where the difference lies is in the palette’s extension to include slightly warmer shades such as Crema Perla limestone tiles (800 by 400, Granite and Marble Works) and Jura Grey limestone vanity top (also Granite and Marble Works) in the master bathroom, for example. The difference is subtle and made more so by the very large fact of the freestanding bath (Amalfi by Victoria & Albert), which holds pride of place as a grand statement of luxury. Moreover, it is a culminating moment in that it proclaims an aspirational lifestyle as paramount that suits this house very well.