Smee Schoff House

Wan Country / Petersham, NSW

Engaged clients and site constraints generate unique design.

Smee Schoff House

2010 Wan Country / Petersham, NSW

This project is a great example of how dedicated and engaged clients together with a challenging set of site constraints make for a rich and unique design outcome.

We faced several challenges: inconsistent council requirements for street-scape and heritage, the need to maintain the privacy and solar access of neighbouring properties, multiple poorly devised and implemented alterations to the existing cottage, limited access to winter sun in the necessarily south-facing living areas, views to the park and access to the winter sun available only to the existing bedrooms. The brief also included an atypical requirement for an eat-in kitchen and a melded dining/lounge/music room.

Our clients have a wonderful art collection, and their own unique style, which contributed to the industrial/craft aesthetic of the new work.

Recycled bricks are used extensively for environmental and aesthetic reasons, on both internal (painted) and external (bare-faced) walls. Black painted, lightweight steel-framed windows and doors accentuate the very tall brick walls of the central court and dining room. Exposed, oversized recycled timber beams scale the 4.5m high ceiling of the dining space. Timbers recycled from demolished portions of the building and our client’s cherished Scandinavian hand-painted ceramic tiles are incorporated into new joinery work.

A lightweight screen of plywood, laser-cut in a pattern derived from the hand-painted tiles separates the kitchen and dining rooms.

The design sits on a clear continuum of our work, of pushing for maximum thermal comfort with minimal ongoing energy use. This involves a relatively large upfront cost, in the provision of substantial thermal mass via exposed concrete slab floors and brick and reverse brick veneer wall construction, coupled with solar powered and gas boosted hydronic underfloor heating, contributing to ongoing and long term energy savings. A central courtyard, between the old and new, provides winter sun to otherwise south-facing living areas.

The construction team from Buildability, led by foreman Matt Raap, were a major factor in the success of the project.

Winner of the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Architecture Award 2012

Jury Citation:

The Smee Schoff House fulfils a familiar task of Sydney architecture with particular distinction. A Federation cottage on a busy street in the inner west was opened to its back garden. The result is a model of its kind, resolving the many challenges of the site with such ease, the difficulties seem hardly to exist.


2012 AIA National Architecture Awards – Commendation
2012 AIA NSW Residential Architecture Award
2014 Marrickville Medal – Commendation


Materiality: Brick and Block in Australian Contemporary Australian Architecture, 2015
Monument (Issue 104) August/Sept, 2011
Home Beautiful September 2011

Project Team

Sam Crawford, Karen Erdos, Lionel Teh




Landscape – Hugh Main, Spirit Level
Structural Engineer – James Sutherland, Northrop
Quantity Surveyor – Matt Saunderson, QS Plus
Hydraulic Engineer – Northrop
Land Surveyor – Hill & Blume


Brett Boardman