A tranquil home with a copper exterior lets in ocean air, sunlight and greenery on a challenging site.
The owner had lived for years in a 1830s cottage in need of serious repair in a densely populated beachside suburb of Sydney, Australia. Although his cottage was dark, cold in winter and hot in summer and lacked cross-ventilation, he deeply valued its seclusion, serenity and proximity to the beach and city. The original plan was for an extensive renovation, but with the house’s deteriorated condition, this was just not viable. Instead, he and his designers embarked on a philosophical and logistical journey to create a new home on the long, sloping, narrow site. The result, called the Copper House, is a tranquil and open small home that resourcefully welcomes the ocean air, sunlight and greenery.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: The owner leases the Copper House to tenants
Location: Coogee, New South Wales, Australia
Size: 645 square feet (60 square meters); 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom
Architect Brent Dunn of Takt l Studio for Architecture says the concept of “one’s place in time” was central to the Copper House.
The owner, Dunn and co-designer Katharina Hendel were friends and had talked informally about the practical considerations of transforming the home. They also had spoken about subtler themes, Dunn says, such as “patterns and rituals of living, dialogue between longevity and decay, and quality of space and place: how spaces shape people as much as the other way around.”
Designs for a new build got underway, working to the challenges of a long narrow sloping site (183 feet long and 20 feet wide) with limited access.
The initial plan was for a two-bedroom vacation home with bathroom, laundry and combined kitchen-living area, access to views and a sense of the original cottage’s calm and tranquility.
It sounds simple, but “a lot of historical research was undertaken to explore the history of the unique old cottage, to help us find an appropriate contemporary expression,” Dunn says.
The search for suitable siding was influenced by the demands of a salty beachside environment, a preference for a low-maintenance material and interest in something that would “embrace its aging.” Copper fit the bill and became a meaningful expression of the spirit of the home outside and in.
“A linear plan was an ideal solution and the stepping also offered a chance to utilize the space under the level changes for laundry and storage,” Dunn says.
He says “the project is first and foremost designed according to passive solar design principles, admitting sun during winter, while the shading cuts it out in summer. The slab provides thermal mass that, together with the insulation, keeps the house very comfortable year round.”
The home has a real sense of openness, dimensionality and engagement with nature and the elements.
Dunn and Hendel see the sense of calm as the home’s most delightful aspect. “It feels private,” Dunn says, “yet enables an experience of the passing of the day and the seasons. We are particularly pleased that a small project contains such diverse spaces and that we were able to pursue custom solutions to add layers of experience to the place.”
Lounge, dining and coffee table: Takt in collaboration with Craft Design Realisation; landscaping: Greenfriends
“Those highlights enable an experience of passing time and the seasons as the light tracks across rooms,” Dunn says. While allowing light and “the upper outdoors” in, this feature gives privacy, something that is valued by the owner.
Vintage spun copper pendant: Vampt Vintage Design
Text by: Niobe Syme
Copper cladding: KFC Rozelle