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Toowong House

As human beings, we have psychological predispositions towards those aspects of life that we are accustomed; this effect is sometimes called ‘The Familiarity Principle.’ 

However, when these tendencies are challenged, we open ourselves up to new normals.

Consider this, most of our significant memories, those that are wedged in our brains, happen too us, i.e., we stumbled across them, we didn’t necessarily plan them.

Let me give you an example: I grew up in the NSW town of Cooranbong. Cooranbong was and is, famous for being home to the Sanitarium Health Food Company.

During my primary and high school years, I would often smell freshly cooked Weet-Bix wafting over the family house as the breeze took it northward.

Years later, when I would travel from Queensland to visit mum, dad, and Andrew, the smell of Weet-bix would bring with it strong and deep-seated familiarities of my childhood.

All of us are sensory individuals by nature. Our conscious and subconscious memories can be triggered when we are subjected to embedded influences.

As it relates to housing, here in Queensland, we identify with the character homes of the suburbs due to their familiar forms and quintessential detailing. i.e., bull-nose verandas and sleepouts, weatherboard exteriors and tin roofs, etc.

Suburban Brisbane is littered with them. They are monuments to the past, reminding us of simpler times via their predictable spatial and aesthetic appeal.

When our clients take steps toward building something more personalised, there are often decisions that have to be made about how far to push the familiar. Their concerns are driven directly from their experience i.e., what they've lived in before.

Yet, something amazing occurs when there is a letting go of preconceived ideas of what is appropriate. It makes way for new normals.

Timothy Hill once said, ‘Our job as designers is not to give people what they think they want. It is to give them something they can fall in love with.’

Sean Godsell also stated, ‘Great architecture is about journey, discovery, and reward.’

Both these statements present ideas that make way for mental and physical newness through an encounter with the unanticipated.

In our Toowong house, we are attempting to draw on the comforts associated with familiar exterior forms, while at the same time, offer the occupants a delightful experience of discovery through an encounter with an eccentric and surprising interior.

By juxtaposing these two elements, we allow for the unearthing of possibility. We participate with space in new and personal ways.

Our floor plan divides space into three unique encounters. The first is through a compressed entry that only gives glimpses of what is to come. With ply clad bedroom boxes to the right, and black dividing walls to the left, we force a corridor-like view down the central spine of the home, a view that is rich in detail and texture. One engages with landscape, timber, void, and filtered light.

Beyond this is an open plan kitchen, dining, and living space. When in this area, a 360-degree perspective reveals a more linear engagement with the ply clad bedrooms and their associated planter boxes. There is also a view to the deck and the northern wall where art hangs between traditional casement windows. All the planter boxes are in full view. These are trafficable via small ladders and offer a close engagement with landscape.

The bedrooms to the right of the plan are staggered down toward the ground floor level. There are two reasons for this. 1. Their positioning promotes soundproofing and privacy from the public areas. 2. Their staggering allows space for the planter boxes above.

The third element in the journey relates to an outdoor deck. This space is an extension of the open-plan internal area. The deck is elevated and highly detailed; a timber canopy in the treetops.

When we open ourselves up to the potentials of the unexpected, we allow for an engagement with space that is highly interpretive. It resets our understanding of what is appropriate and defines lasting memories we did not anticipate, these inform our future.


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