Balmain Pair

Balmain, NSW

Architects Benn + Penna refurbished two neighbouring 1920s workers’ cottages in Balmain into this stunning intergenerational house, accommodating multiple generations of the Benn family.

 

The Balmain Pair won a NSW Residential Architecture Award in 2014, showing that small-scale collaborative housing can successfully deliver beautiful design. As the house is in a heritage conservation area, most of the changes are out the back, with little change to the façade.

Category: Small blocks

 

About the project

 

Architects Benn + Penna refurbished two neighbouring 1920s workers’ cottages in Balmain into this stunning intergenerational house, accommodating multiple generations of the Benn family. The Balmain Pair won a NSW Residential Architecture Award in 2014, showing that small-scale collaborative housing can successfully deliver beautiful design. As the house is in a heritage conservation area, most of the changes are out the back, with little change to the façade.

 

The house has three separate dwellings. The two main family dwellings are connected via a north-facing yard. The third dwelling on the site is a self-contained rental unit, which could also be used by other members of the family, or by a live-in carer as the residents age.

 

The flexible design allows for sharing and interaction between the two main dwellings, while maintaining the privacy of the different households.

 

The residents

 

Andrew Benn – the architect for the home – and his wife Alice Penna, an interior designer, live in one dwelling. Their architectural studio specialises in residential alterations, new homes and small commercial projects. This family home was an opportunity to bring their design expertise to their own living space.

 

Andrew’s mother Suzanne Benn lives in the other main dwelling with her partner Dr Andrew Martin. Suzanne is Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Technology Sydney, so environmental and social benefits were important to her during the design process. The house incorporates recycled floorboards, excellent ventilation, solar panels and a shared rainwater tank.

 

The close proximity of the dwellings also allows the residents to share food and equipment, care for each other, and look after the resident dog Nellie.

 

Project snapshot
What is shared?
How did it happen?
Legalities

Governance

The three dwellings are independent but connected through a shared rear garden. The north-facing garden has a passageway connecting the two yards. Small gaps built into the wall between the yards allow for subtle interaction between the two dwellings. The dwellings also share a rainwater tank and household equipment such as a vacuum cleaner.

A family company, of which Suzanne and her sons are the directors, owned one of the properties. When the adjacent cottage went up for sale, the family recognised the opportunity and Suzanne bought the new property, allowing the concept of an intergenerational house to emerge. Family members provided architectural and legal services.

Despite the physical connection between the two main dwellings, they remain on separate titles. The first property is owned by the family company under one title, and the second by Suzanne under another title. The development application for the renovation was done for both houses under their two separate titles.

There is no formal governance structure in place for the shared property. As a family complex, issues are worked through in normal family conversations. The different households are careful not to intrude on each other’s privacy and have developed informal ways of checking with each other before visiting.

 © 2019 University of Technology Sydney