By Emily Hutchinson, Houzz

Architect Ed Davis designed a renovation and an addition for Sydney homeowners who have a love of traditional Japanese architecture. One of the ways Davis incorporated Japanese style in the 19th-century home was by adding small courtyards, accessed via sliding wood doors or panels. This created a sense of warmth and texture in the home and blurred the lines between inside and out. “These ideas reflected how the clients saw themselves living, and we wanted the house to respond deliberately to these aims,” Davis says.

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Courtyard House


Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Katrina and Alex Farrelly and their two young boys
Location: Sydney, Australia
Size: 1,960 square feet (182 square meters); three bedrooms, one bathroom and a detached studio
Budget: About $500,000 for the renovation and addition
Designer: Davis Architects

In 2009, Davis built a detached studio, above, in the backyard of the Sydney home for the homeowners to use while renovations took place in the main house in 2014 and 2015.

The studio now serves as a guesthouse and entertainment area. It houses a living area and small kitchen, a bathroom and a sleeping loft. It also contains the main laundry and storage areas, as well as a Japanese garden.


Courtyard House


The backyard and the main house are glimpsed through windows in the studio’s bathroom, pictured here. “The main house is now engaged in a conversation with the studio across the main garden area,” the designer says. Davis says the studio offers privacy from neighboring homes, which border the property on three sides.

In the main house, the addition steals the show. There were some ad hoc additions to the rear of the house in the early 1980s, but they created no connection to the backyard. The existing kitchen was located where the new living room is. The space now includes the kitchen, living and dining areas.

In contrast to the cellular plan of the existing house, the new addition is all about light, openness, texture, materials and lifestyle. Davis used wood to create warmth and texture in the room, with a large sliding door opening up the room to the backyard.


Courtyard House


One of the biggest challenges Davis faced with the design was the fact that the house faced east. To ensure that it received winter sun, maintained privacy and had an expansive sense of space, he added vaulted ceilings to the living room and high-level glazing. “These large feature windows allow sun and breezes to enter the house at the key times of year and allow for an outlook through the neighboring trees and beyond, without compromising the privacy of the new spaces,” he says.


Courtyard House


The family loves to spend time outside. Doors are designed to disappear when open, so the garden spaces and outdoor entertaining areas are visually pulled inside the house.




The homeowners wanted the kitchen to feel like it was part of the outdoor space. Davis designed a kitchen that juts out into the backyard like a peninsula. “We call it the ‘kitchen kiosk,’” he says. “It opens to both the garden and the outdoor covered living area, as well as connecting into the main living and dining rooms. Effectively, it interconnects or knits four spaces together.”

A pass-through window makes it easy for the kids to have snacks and drinks when they’re playing outside.

Environmental considerations were important to both the architect and homeowners. The new works were all slab-on-ground, which adds thermal mass to the addition. The amount of sunlight entering the home is also controlled, so the home warms up naturally in winter and stays cool in summer.

Other considerations include the use of solar panels, underground rainwater tanks and materials such as recycled floorboards, doors and windows, all made from sustainable Australian hardwood. The design also includes energy-efficient lighting and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints.

What Davis is most proud of, however, is the way the various courtyards create a multidimensional space. As you move through the house, the courtyards reveal themselves along the way. “I love to create intimate spaces within large open-plan spaces. That’s something that I think this house achieves,” he says.

The courtyards also allow the house to receive plenty of sunlight and to maximize airflow through the home.


Courtyard House


A glass corridor connects the original section of the house with the new addition. “We wanted to pull off the horrendous early-1980s additions and place a new building that was physically separated from the existing house by the small courtyards and the glass bridge,” Davis says. “This design move meant that the existing house could be allowed to breathe and could be appreciated in its own right.”

The original part of the home houses the three bedrooms and the bathroom. The bathroom connects with the courtyard and looks out to the modern addition.


Courtyard House


To further connect the two parts of the home, Davis continued the wood through to the bathroom. A retractable door can be opened to enjoy the feeling of showering in fresh air.


Courtyard House


One of the children’s bedrooms opens directly onto a separate courtyard located off the glass corridor, which lets in more light and ventilation. Fans were also added to each of the bedrooms.