With the precision and foresight of a sculptor, our project chips away at the stifling ‘nice to haves’ of homelife, leaving behind only the essentials of elegant, functional living — the result is Humble House. A sloping form that echoes the natural elevations of its site, the two-storey structure is strategically carved into three geometric pavilions that accommodate three bedrooms, a studio, communal living spaces and two bathrooms. Spaces are sequentially linked by a glass-bound, daylight-filled internal walkway, the connective tissue of this unique form. A stone’s throw away from Wilson Botanic Gardens in Berwick, and on a sloping 800m2 site offering views of the horizon, Humble House brings the outdoors in at every opportunity. In designing Humble House we denote that scaling down need not be synonymous with sacrifice, rather Humble House offers a refined, though unassuming aesthetic that advocates for the joys of stripping away excess and living simply with ease.
Drawing on our client’s cultural heritage, the concept embodies key traits found in traditional Indian homes: open to the elements, incorporating generous entertaining space, and with the larger pavilions punctuated by a series of internal courtyards.
With a previous collaboration under our belt, a home of approximately 600m2, we came to the project with a solid understanding of our client’s day-to-day lives, and therefore the required flow of their home and use of space. Humble House needed to reflect their next chapter, one without children in the house full time which would allow them to age joyfully in place.
Despite downsizing, a connection to nature and the ability to host guests were distinct priorities for our clients. To cater for all entertaining eventualities, we ensured the kitchen/living space could approximately double in size by incorporating an outdoor terrace that runs the length of the indoor communal area. Framed by perforated aluminium screens, and with fully operable windows in a charcoal powder coat, the outdoor space is suitable for enjoying in all seasons. Here the threshold between indoors and out is carefully designed to be virtually non-existent. Glazed sliding doors and folding servery windows create an authentic experience of indoor/outdoor living. Whether hosting an intimate party or a sizable gathering, this flexible solution ensures Humble House is an inviting place to congregate.
We designed Humble House from the inside out, allowing the habitual flow of our client's lives to inform the design. External slate cladding spills indoors, combined with abundant greenery to enhance a feeling of openness from within.
Strategic, angled placement of each of the three fit-for-purpose wings ensures privacy from neighbours while using rooms or courtyards, yet their orientation allows visual and audio connection within the home to be retained. The project allows our clients to enjoy the perks of urban life while sheltering them from the hustle and bustle of it while at home.
With a south-facing orientation insisting that natural light be harnessed wherever possible, the entire form acts as a sundial, exhibiting natural rhythms as day transitions to night. From the sense of expanse created by the skylights of the paved walkway to the courtyard voids between pavilions that burst with clusters of wildflowers, the lines, light, and reflective properties of materials used provide a connected, dynamic experience in every nook of the project.
The exterior cladding of Spanish black slate shingles creeps into the internal walkway, successfully blurring materiality to create the feeling of the outdoors from the inside, while also stitching pavilions together.
By designing inside-out, and injecting the most beneficial elements of nature back into the home, Humble House celebrates the clients’ meaningful approach to life. Its comfortingly insular layout, with inward-facing courtyard windows, reinforces a sense of privacy and seclusion while maintaining a strong connection to the landscape.
Anticipated to be the clients’ forever home, accessibility throughout was key to the design, despite the challenge of the natural slope of the site. What begins as a ground floor entrance seamlessly transitions to an elevated first floor. Although the steep landfall meant it was not possible to have an entirely single-floor home, strategic spatial mapping ensured unimpeded access to and from bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and living — the areas in which 90% of the day is spent — minimising stair use.
No space is wasted in Humble House. The interstitial space between rooms presented an opportunity to move beyond generic hallways and curate joyful transition spaces that prompt visual vantage points for admiring views, courtyards and other areas of the home. Double-glazed Belle skylights are fitted to ceilings, ushering natural daylight.
With the client a ceramic artist, the interior spaces create moments to celebrate the art made in the studio. Paired back, sophisticated furnishings that compliment a restrained material palette makes space for decorative design to be sentimental and creative.
Flexible folding windows, floor-to-ceiling double-glazed sliding doors, and strategic positioning of internal gardens and courtyards all coalesce to allow a tailored, occupant-driven approach to natural ventilation. The incorporation of rainwater use and solar power provides a resourceful and thermally efficient living.
A contemporary structure with timeless finishes and low-maintenance living is also a matter of strategic material selection for Humble House. Durable Spanish slate shingles that clad the exterior will respond to weather and develop their own individual patina over time. A restrained and low-maintenance interior palette of robust steel and glass surfaces, that is juxtaposed by the warmth of timber, exudes an honest character.
A design ethos centred on living simply in connection to the outdoors has meant inherently Humble House is sustainably considered.