Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

 

It always feel extra special to celebrate the work of someone you know and admire, and today’s project is no exception. Madeleine Blanchfield is a super talented Sydney architect, who’s husband is also an architect – of course! (he also happens to be my old director from another life in which I used to have a real job, which is how I met Madeleine.) In any case, not only is she a super talented with an incredible work ethic, Madeleine is also a bit of a fox, and most importantly – she’s a lovely human.

Madeleine and her team at Madeleine Blanchfield Architects (MBA) recently refurbished an existing 1950s house in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for an art-loving young family of five. The client wanted to ‘fix’ the dark, disconnected parts of the south-facing house, and create a home that embodied the family’s unique character.

Madeleine was given a 17th century lithograph of five little fish with human faces from “Marvels Of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects Of Things Existing” as a starting point for the project. This lithographs informed the design process, resulting in a beautiful home that’s equal parts whimsical, calm, inspiring, slightly quirky and deeply personal.

The team gutted the existing house, leaving only its structural columns and beams. They created huge windows onto external courtyards and removed most of the existing walls to flood the spaces with light. However, the issue with removing all the walls was that there was nowhere to hang all the art. This problem became the driving concept and the key approach behind the design – bringing art into the architecture.

“We found opportunities for art in every part of the house and treated each element as its own blueprint. We crafted the stair inspired by Alice in Wonderland and the external fireplace by Carlo Scarpa. The powder room was wallpapered in cactus print, cushions and fabrics were artworks themselves. The various courtyards were conceived of as art boxes and executed by different artists”, shares Madeleine.

Collaborating with the very best craftsmen and artists MBA designed, detailed and hand made everything – from the lights, metal basins and solid marble consoles to the 4 metre long dining table made from a single tree.

 

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

 

Every piece of art and furniture was designed, or selected and placed in intense collaboration with the owners, artists, curators and craftsmen. As a result, the house has the cohesiveness and the wholeness of something that belongs to its owners and whose contents belong to it.

The design explores new ways of living with art and accommodating the deep connection between the house, its contents and the owners. MBA treated the three elements as one whole – an inseparable unit, crafted with and around each other. The spaces embody the family’s belongings, ideas, gatherings, stories and memories and create a stage for more to be formed.

The project was a tour de force of collaboration. The very best artists, curators, joiners, metal workers, stylists, textile designers and stone masons were involved and as a result the house personifies the brief for wonder and inspiration.

And the client’s couldn’t be happier. They said: “Madeleine Blanchfield transformed our house into a bright, airy jewel box. It really is so beautifully detailed and feels so calm, like being on a holiday. My favourite space is the kitchen because it is the heart of the home where the boys can sit at the bench and we can all be together. We wanted our home to feel serene so for inspiration we gave Madeleine an Indian lithograph. It’s quite whimsical and a bit quirky, which was our starting point for how we communicated what we wanted for the house. The end result is bright and airy, beachy and cosy.”

 

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

 

We had a little chat to Madelaine for further insight about this project.
Read on for what she had to say.

 

+ Can you share with us your favourite thing about this project?

I love the internal and external concrete fireplaces and the concrete kitchen bench. The formwork was extraordinarily complicated.

I remember going to site one day and 6 guys were all contorted at crazy angles trying to form the fireplace up – it looked like a game of twister. They weren’t very fond of me !

+ Most challenging aspect?

The project started as a new kitchen and ended up as largely a new house. As a result there was time pressure on most aspects. We had the builders on site while still designing, which was challenging for us and for them.

The clients are very creative and talented in their own fields. The challenge from a design perspective was to find common ground that set the right tone and style for the house, gave us direction but also encompassed their individuality.

+ What did you learn during the project?

Along with some wonderful craftsmen and collaborators we ‘did’ everything, from the architecture down to the customised furniture items.

We learned a lot, like how to make a 4.2m long table from a single tree, how to carve marble, how to cast, colour and form bronze. The list goes on.

 

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

Clovelly House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects | Yellowtrace

 

+ Would you have done anything differently?

We had a a few minor fails on the project. One that springs to mind is the ‘secret ensuite window’.

In the spirit of ‘flooding the house with light’ we made a special secret window to capture the western sun. It was hidden inside the mirrored cabinets and designed so that the afternoon sun came into the bathroom through the glass back and shelves of the cabinet, but only when the cupboard door was open. The window lasted a week. The owner’s toiletries were cooked.

+ Any interesting or quirky facts you could share with us about the project?

The brief for the project was an image of a 17th century lithograph of five little fish with human faces. Caroline SMSd it to me and said – “this is how we want our house to feel.”

Quirky fact – Our beautiful white geranium garden on the awning of the house was entirely eaten – down to the stalks – by possums about a week after installation.

 

 


[Images courtesy of Madeleine Blanchfield Architects. Photography by Prue Ruscoe.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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