Backyard bonanza

Jenny Brown September 17, 2011

A Brunswick 'shed' stands tall in any company.

Considering the land values in Brunswick, Justin Bahler and Emma Adams did a brilliant bit of buying when they purchased a 26-metre by 12-metre backyard in an old part of the suburb traced with bluestone-cobbled lanes.

Their plot, in ''a fantastic position'', according to Mr Bahler, was sold with a shed on site and planning permission in place for a two-storey residence.

With limited time to obtain a government first home builder's grant, and a comparatively tiny budget of $300,000, they did well, too, to track down Nest Architects after admiring a nearby project carried out by the firm.

Nest's design team of Imogen Pullar and Emilio Fuscaldo quickly came back with a proposition for a family home in the shape of a big silver shed.

Pullar says the practice suggested an apexed structure in Zincalume, or silver corrugated iron, because ''a simple-to-build backyard shed would be cost effective, would have a small footprint but a large volume, and within that tall envelope had scope for flexible layout that could be amended in the future''.

There were six further points on the architectural proposition but the client couple was sold.

Local planning authorities were enthused by a simple building that suited the neighbourhood character and the plans were approved within three weeks.

The result of the architectural adventure described by Pullar as an exercise in ''backyard aesthetics'' was a two-bedroom house for two adults and their two young daughters. The house has 93 square metres of floor space.

A skirt of young native plants will disguise the backyard fences. The heated floor is a slab of polished aggregate concrete. ''Very shed aesthetic,'' Pullar says.

It might sound like a tight squeeze but the house doesn't feel cramped in the least. Under six matching skylights, Nest managed to create a sense of sunny space by using the six-metre apex to their advantage. The sky is the outlook.

In the L-shaped configuration above a long galley kitchen that turns through to become the sitting area, the architects took the room to the peak. Mr Bahler is tall and is enjoying the ample headroom. He insisted, too, that all sliding doors and windows be over-scaled to a height of 2.4 metres.

Where the amenity didn't require such scale, in bedrooms and bathrooms, the architects opted for a contained and cosy design.

''You don't need height in those rooms, so we could build on top,'' Pullar says.

The mezzanine, also an L-shaped space, was a bonus the clients weren't expecting. Partial walls allow the family ''to see the whole roof apex'', Pullar says. This classic, wooden-floored attic is used as an office and guest sleeping loft. When the couple's daughters grow up, it could be walled in and turned into bedrooms. Plumbing is already in place upstairs.

The classic silver iron cladding, ''the shape and the floors are all shed aesthetics'', Pullar says.

''I really want to live like this … it's pretty relaxed,'' she says. ''It's open without being open-plan. It's small without being mean. It enjoys a lot of amenity. It's such a small house but it's a tall house.

''We've used the air space of it and we've made use of all that extra volume. For Brunswick, a small house with a lot of light and volume is not the norm.''

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