SJB’s Surry Hills project has picked up the major prize at the Inside World Festival of Interiors, surpassing a diverse array of interior design projects from around the globe.
Not everyone gets to wake up each day inside the World Interior of the Year, but that’s the case for SJB director Adam Haddow and his husband Michael Combs.
Their playful multi-storey home at 19 Waterloo Street in Surry Hills, Sydney, took out the highest accolade at the 2023 Inside World Festival of Interiors, with the announcement made at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) gala in Singapore on Friday 1 December.
Haddow’s own practice was behind the design of his beloved single residence, and he was in Singapore to receive the award on Friday night.
“It feels remarkable, amazing, overwhelming and really just fulfilling to be honest,” Haddow told Australian Design Review after stepping off the awards stage.
He compared his house to a ‘tailored jacket’ – snug, but just right for its inhabitants.
“It’s [about] living with just enough, but not too much. In the state of the world, can we live on a smaller footprint, do more with it and live better with it? That’s what the project is about.”
Completed in 2022, 19 Waterloo Street is buried among the chaos of warehouses and terraces that once served Sydney’s rag trade. The original building had a chequered past as a butcher, a grocer, a window workshop, a hatter and finally a restaurant, each with the attached rooms above.
A corner terrace with decades of architectural detritus had engulfed the site with a never-ending cascade of additions and lean-tos, with the odd weed surviving between the cracks of the concrete path. SJB’s ambition was to break up the site and deliver a mixed-use house. A shop, a self-contained flat and a home – three uses out of one.
The new addition at the rear of the site is accommodated on just 30 square metres and has a total internal area of 69 square metres. Using a split section, the stair is the pinwheel around which the house moves.
From the street, the dwelling is punched with a random set of openings but, once inside, these reveal a highly tuned stack of rooms divided into spaces that are served or in service. The service spaces are short with 2.1-metre ceilings – storage, kitchen, robe and en suite, while the served spaces are grand with 3.6-metre ceilings – study, living and bedroom.
With a maximum depth of 3.3 metres, light and ventilation always connect to the energy of the day while lending the house a strong sense of urbanity – reminding the couple that they are living in the city.
Externally, the much admired house is playful and textured – riffing the motives and materiality of the suburb that surrounds it.
A little like a house from a Jacques Tati film, it features a façade that feels alive with personality.
Reclaimed bricks form the canvas. Discarded broken ones reflect the historic sandstone base of the surrounding streets and are cut and folded to hide openings and protect views, while the upper bricks shift in scale to frame windows and support planting.
During the making of the house artists were commissioned to present a generous edge. The front gate is a cast bronze sculpture by Mika Utzon-Popov, and an all-enveloping landscape by Nicholas Harding in the living room is viewable from the street.
A ‘super jury’ of global design experts – comprising Nigel Coates (Nigel Coates Studio), Mark Dytham (Klein Dytham Architecture), Ingrid van der Heijden (Civic Architects), Friedrich Ludewig (ACME) and Anna Xu (Dyson) – selected 19 Waterloo Street as the overall winner from the line-up of Inside category winners. They described the winning project as “not only a building or an interior, but a pocket-sized tour de force”.
Before taking out the overall prize on Friday, Haddow’s home had already won the Inside – Residential (Single Dwelling) category and its competitors included:
SJB’s own Eucalyptusdom, a collaboration with Richard Leplastrier AO and Vania Contreras, was also recognised in the Inside – Temporary/Meanwhile Uses category.
“I’m always in awe of the calibre of projects presented at WAF and Inside, so to have received not just one, but two awards feels pretty surreal,” says Haddow.
“I’m so proud of the work we do at SJB, and I’m incredibly honoured to lead a team that’s producing such exciting, forward-thinking projects that are not only beautiful, but actively working to solve real-world issues.”
Photography by Anson Smart.