A small site leads a design team to create shared walls behind a dark facade that belies two private, spacious and light-filled homes

A passageway from the entrance of the house architecture, ceiling, floor, flooring, home, house, interior design, living room, real estate, room, wood, brown
A passageway from the entrance of the house on the left leads past the garage and a sheltered courtyard to the main living area.

Today's urban infill housing is an exercise in sharing. Properties are subdivided, townhouses share walls with neighbours and apartment buildings have communal foyers and gardens.

When Form Architecture and Design's Tobin Smith and Case Ornsby had to split a 506m² property in two, they took their cue from all three of these scenarios.

Ornsby says they opted to run a thick concrete wall down the length of the property and create two mirrored floorplans that fold out from the centre. Two houses now sit back to back, each with a garage and main entrance at the front.

"This design gives each unit the same advantages of road access, privacy and views, without cutting up the site with a driveway," he says.

A concrete planter marks the beginning of an architecture, building, facade, home, house, luxury vehicle, property, real estate, residential area, black, white, gray
A concrete planter marks the beginning of an inter-tenancy concrete wall that divides these two houses, designed by Form Architecture and Design. The upper levels of each home are dwarfed by the solid, dark facade, reducing the perceived scale of the structure.

To minimise the impact of side-by-side garages, the facade is a single dark-stained, cedar-clad wall, broken at the centre by a concrete planter bed, which marks the start of the inter-tenancy wall.

This planter block also houses street numbers and letterboxes, and impedes sightlines from the road into the house.

An emphasis on solid form, contemporary clean lines and privacy is a theme throughout. Ornsby says another prime consideration was to create enough outdoor living space for a material dialogue with the interior.

"Each house is set back from the garage via a passage. As well as providing more privacy, this leaves a space between the garage and house for a sheltered courtyard."

The home's modern design is a collection of apartment, architecture, daylighting, estate, floor, flooring, hardwood, home, house, interior design, property, real estate, wood, wood flooring, black, gray
The home's modern design is a collection of solid forms and bold lines.Internal structures such as the kitchen console and island and the staircase illustrate the point

The cedar cladding of the facade folds into the interior and back out again, wrapping the garage. Its dark, vertical lines are echoed in exterior louvres outside the second-floor window.

Inside, the Victorian Ash floor boards are fitted to sit flush with the external timber boards. When the sliding doors are open, the connection is almost seamless. Full-height pivot doors, a skylight, frosted doors and glazed walls all let natural light into the house.

The concrete dividing wall is raw and rough a feature in its own right. Very little in the interior seems to touch it, not even the staircase or ceiling, which has a negative margin detail. The wall runs all the way up to the second floor, untreated and unbroken, on both sides.

Credit list

Cedar from Herman
Victorian ash
Furniture and curtains
Butyl rubber
Doors and windows
NuLook Advanced Aluminium
Bathroom toilet, bath and basin

Story by: Frederique Gulcher

Photography by: Stephen Goodenough Back to back A small site leads a design team to create shared

01 Jan, 2010