“The living area is on the first floor, and the family room is one level up, with a deck we use as our ‘high use’ outdoor area. We also wanted to develop the notion of a courtyard as a breathing space – on each level we look at the garden from a different perspective,” he says.The courtyard has also helped Willett keep work and home life separate. “Walking across that small courtyard is a psychological going home, it’s quite important,” he says.
“It would’ve cost a lot more. It costs a huge amount to keep adding layers in a domestic house. [We’ve used a] gradual grading of lighter materials as it gets higher, starting with a brick veneer structure with timber floors, [while the] dormer uses timber Cyprus pine cladding,” he says.An extendable awning over the second level deck makes this important outdoor space usable in hot weather, while pushing the stairs to the front of the house helps control heat inside.
“In summer the sun doesn’t get into lower levels at all; it’s quite a remarkable difference between the courtyard and the lower levels. People think we have air conditioning, but we simply use fans at the top levels to extract that hot air, and some small operable skylights,” says Willett.
“Double glazing costs about 30 per cent more; we couldn’t afford that. [On the busy street side] we chose a thicker laminated glass normally produced as a safety glass – it gives quite a good acoustic performance. As people walk from the noisy street into the room the sound drops significantly,” he says.Willett also saved money by using a series of small structural nibs throughout.
“It allows you to have a braced system that’s cheaper than steel portal frames, gives you environmental performance you want, and consistent storage space,” he says.