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Homes: our most excellent holiday house swap

I've posted a few design highlights from my trip to Sydney at Christmas here, here and over on Instagram already, but have finally got my photos in order to share the biggest of them all: the house we stayed in.

It was my first experience of a house swap, and I think we got pretty lucky...

Above: the front living room at our holiday home, with gravity-defying Sapiens bookcase and armchair covered in Timorous Beasties' London Toile, a nod to the owners' London connection

I have brothers who live in the city, and the house belongs to the neighbours of one of them; a family of three, including one Brit expat who happened to be over in London for Christmas and was looking for a place to stay while we were going to be in Sydney.

After I'd nosed around their house virtually – it is on the website of MAC Interactive Architects, who designed it (some of whose photos I've used, where my own were too shoddy) – I went into a finishing-the-house-DIY-frenzy in preparaton. Scroll through the photos and you can perhaps see why...

This hanging seat, on the balcony outside the master bedroom where we slept (I know...) was pretty much my spot for our two-week holiday. I think I got through five books in it, and a few beers.

It's a pretty unusual looking building. So I asked how it came about: the family had returned to Sydney after a few years living in London and felt they'd already lived in a typical Victorian Sydney terrace – like the neighbouring houses above, with wrought iron balconies, you see them all over the city – and though they loved them, wanted something different. They'd also been to Japan and visited Tokyo and Hokkaido, an island in the north, where they discovered some very different looking sort of a houses, made from concrete and wood – like this house in snowy Hirafu (which you can see over at Architizer).

But back to Sydney...

Above: the back view of the house just after it was finished, and before that hanging chair made its way onto the balcony at the top (photo: MAC Interactive)

The owners decided to "live the Grand Designs dream" and build their own house inspired by the Japanese architecture they'd loved, plus a moodboard including music and films they both like. "Our lovely architect came up with barn idea – a big wood box – and we took it from there," they told me.

Above: the house from the side. The tall window in the middle is, I think, the bathroom, which there's a photo of shortly (photo: MAC Interactive)

The owners say they love the house because it's versatile and they can use the rooms in different ways. "It's not a show-off mansion," they told me, "It's enigmatic... It's good for all sorts of situations. Kids' parties. Friend get-togethers. We have even had mariachis using the kitchen/courtyard seat as a stage for a surprise show..."

Above: the living/dining/courtyard area, and sometime mariachi stage (photo: MAC Interactive)

Above: The view into the kitchen from the courtyard (photo: MAC Interactive)

The house, the owners continue, "is clever in terms of heat and cooling, and it uses the limited space – for Sydney – well especially volume; high ceilings make it all seem bigger."

Unusually for a new house in hot city like Sydney, it has no air conditioning yet is very cool, thanks to its clever design. It also has photovoltaic panels; a fireplace that pumps hot air around the upstairs rooms in cooler weather and a 10,000 litre rainwater tank that supplies the loos and washing machine.

One of the many details I thought was really clever was the way the back doors opened: they recede into niches and so when they're completely open you don't see them, and the garden becomes part of the interior.

I also really loved the view as you come in the front door: straight ahead you have the staircase with a glass panel overlooking the kitchen. The shelves are on the kitchen side. Below is the architect's photo, showing this from a different angle.

The shelves are home to the owners' Chinese communist figurines; they're modern replicas bought in Beijing, apart from the car which is an original, picked up in an antique shop in New York.

There are a few more looking out of one of the tall windows. 

They have so much great stuff...

The shape-throwing lampshade is a nice touch.

Above: a Thorsten van Elten bowl, made from toy soldiers

The family are all big fans of Toy Story and Pixar – and this green soldier is just one piece of Pixar merchandise dotted around the house.

Above: The lusciously orange-tiled bathroom, with a walk-in shower, was our en-suite (photo: MAC Interactive)

And I loved the painting above our bed, which made me think of an Indian night market on the beach. It's by Emma Walker and you can see more of it on her website.

But even better than the house was the house cat, Briefcase. Bullishly friendly like a dog, he was a big, soppy superstar. All in all, a pretty incredible house-swap.

Read about the house and see more photos at MAC Interactive Architects, in Sydney

1 comment :

  1. Wow! you got so lucky, good work. Once I have fixed up this place, going to try something similar.
    Thanks for sharing as ever.
    PS Finally written a new post :