Raising the rafters: Redfern Warehouse

Ian Moore Architects
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In converting a former warehouse in Sydney into a comfortable family home, Ian Moore Architects have applied a soft touch, retaining original brick walls and trusses, and celebrating the building’s spatial qualities.

Many people dream of living in a converted warehouse. They imagine spaciousness, high ceilings, roof trusses and old bricks. One young family searched Sydney for six years before finding such a building in Redfern, only to discover that – like most warehouses – it had some serious drawbacks.

West-facing and uninsulated, the building was blisteringly hot in summer and freezing through winter. The noise of rain on the raw tin roof was so deafening that conversations had to be abandoned when a storm rolled in and an unsympathetic nineties renovation had created a jumble of useless rooms.

So, they employed Ian Moore Architects to completely reform the warehouse – to make it into a communal family home with gardens and a pool, a workshop and garage for a beloved car collection and a home office-cum-equine genetics lab. A complex brief was made simple by locating the office/lab, garage and a guest suite on the ground floor. The remainder of the house sits above, connected via a dramatic stair and courtyard garden.

The existing garage doors have been replaced by large windows to light the office. Metal louvres cover the glass, providing privacy and protection against the western sun, while skilfully referencing the original roller doors and retaining the building’s appearance. The office has a separate entry, meaning you need to leave home to go to work – a simple trick that brings professionalism to the home office and promotes neighbourly conversations as people go back and forth. An opaque glass wall between the office and the house entry allows natural light to enter the office during the day and artificial light to be shared with the house at night. Shadows cast on the glass are a nice reminder that the family is together in this building.

Ian Moore Architects has raised the floor of the courtyard and pool by a half level, a subtle shift that draws the eye upwards as you enter the home. This also means that from below, in the guest room, you feel secluded yet still connected to light, greenery and your hosts. From above, the garden is closer; you can watch the reflections in the pool and appreciate the tree canopies. Within the garden itself, the one-and-a-half-level proportion feels spacious, but not cavernous.

An oversized steel stair – a feat of engineering in plate steel with concrete-filled treads – takes you up through the warehouse. Although reminiscent of an original industrial stair that may have at one time occupied the space, this new version feels solid and the treads are silent. Travelling beside the courtyard garden, the stair arrives at the generous open living room on the first floor. To one side is the kitchen, to the other an enormous custom orange couch and, ahead, a second garden – this one framed within the building’s original gable end. These areas blend together within the warehouse form, accentuating the feeling of spaciousness.

Redfern Warehouse blurs domestic and industrial scales to create unique experiences. Living and garden areas feel like one. Furniture can be located to divide spaces without walls. A wide corridor, open to the living room and the courtyard, acts as a playground within the house. In it the children can deploy their entire Hot Wheels collection or, with a run-up from the bedrooms, spring through a dedicated gap in the couch.

The simple and spacious plan of the house is clear; you always know where you are and can sense the location of everyone else. Adjustable louvres around the courtyard’s glass walls layer the space with privacy when needed or create internal vistas between rooms and gardens. In contrast, the small existing windows that have been retained frame external views – the orange-hued bricks of the neighbouring buildings appear as if in paintings.

The new works are clean and defer to the existing structure. Internal walls become glass above door height, allowing the existing trusses to continue overhead. Frameless pivoting doors prevent the need for trims to be installed on the existing timbers. A perforated mini-orb metal ceiling mimics the original, while hiding sound-deadening insulation.

Throughout the house, old and new elements are further delineated by colour. Most of the structure and services are exposed, but new elements are painted grey and old are white. This striking palette, especially the white roof beams that sail from side to side, highlights the extent of the space – the original dream of warehouse living.

This home harnesses the purity and generosity found in a warehouse. The simple courtyard plan and respectful insertions accommodate comfortable and connected living spaces, a unique workplace and a family car hobby. Space is cleverly tailored to not only embrace warehouse living, but to encourage play, interaction and community within the family.

Louvres around the courtyard’s glass walls allow for privacy and help to create internal vistas between rooms.
 

Louvres around the courtyard’s glass walls allow for privacy and help to create internal vistas between rooms.

 

Like paintings, existing windows frame scenes of trees and neighbouring buildings. Artwork: Erin Lawlor.

 

Internal walls shift to glazing above door height, revealing the full extent of the existing trusses.

 

Metal louvres reference the original roller doors of the warehouse and speak of its previous appearance.