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  • Writer's pictureStjohn Axbey

CASE STUDY: The Artist Studio Conversion

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Setting the scene

Located in a forgotten enclave of Katoomba, in the corner of the garden of an imposing weatherboard house, was a disused artist’s studio.

The timber weatherboard structure had never been fully completed by the previous owners, and it was now being used as a glorified workshop and storage facility, as well as a home for a nest of some very unwelcome European Wasps.

The studio in its tucked away position and a view inside before work commenced.

The restoration of the main property was coming to its conclusion so attention could now turn to breathing new life into the studio; the owners saw potential for the building to be used as a granny flat or as a short-term rental, so I was tasked with the job of converting the space into a luxurious one-bedroom residence.

The Challenge

For the space to be attractive to the short-term rental market it required some prerequisites; a bedroom and a bathroom - naturally - a kitchen and a lounge. There were also some ‘nice to haves’ to be considered such as an open fire, a spa bath and a laundry.

Fitting all of this into a floor space of only 42m² might seem impossible you'd think? Well… actually, no.

The Proposal

The beauty of this building was its original design; a barn like structure with cathedral ceilings with a very generous 5m floor to ceiling height which was key to the success of the design proposal... but more of that later.

The single biggest problem was the position of the existing entrance door on the southern facade: a very unappealing aluminium sliding affair from the 90’s combined with the existing large expanse of south facing glass. All very fine for an artist’s work-space, but not so appealing for a self-contained apartment.

The unappealing south facade complete with hideous aluminium entrance door.

If the entrance door was to remain in its original position, visitors would have to pass by the rear of the existing house and would be forced to stare into the owner’s courtyard. The large expanse of glass, although letting lots of light into the space, meant that there would be a distinct lack of privacy for guests and owner alike: problems that the owner was very keen to avoid.

So it was decided to block the door off completely and add two sets of sliding doors to the eastern wall. This meant that guests would enter via the main garden, plus they would be afforded a view of the garden from within the studio: privacy would therefore be maintained for both the residents of the main house and the studio alike.

The proposed ground floor layout.

Once this essential reconfiguration was established the rest of the design unfolded organically and the ground floor layout evolved how you see it in the plan above.... but that's not the end of it.

Returning to the subject of that lofty cathedral roof, it was decided to leverage this space by introducing a mezzanine floor which adding another 20 odd square meters to the floor space. This formed the bedroom area, with two small wardrobes built into the otherwise unusable sloping recesses of the roof. The mezzanine floor would be finished with a glass balustrade that would afford views into the lounge space below and glimpses of the distant escarpments of the Jamieson Valley.

Rendered image of the proposed mezzanine level with even enough room for an occasional chair

The north facing gable wall of the bedroom also received a high-level opaque window above the bed, providing much needed additional light as well as essential ventilation for the loft space, via openable louvres.

The mezzanine floor extends halfway across the available floor space

With the mezzanine floor in place it followed, somewhat predictably, that the kitchen and bathroom should be positioned underneath, thus creating a very spacious open plan lounge, dining and kitchen area.

Rendered image of the ground floor space and mezzanine level.

The wall where the entrance door used to be was now a blank canvas. It was the perfect place to add a fireplace, so what evolved became the main feature of the space: a fire, chimney and wood storage area, constructed of Hebel block and clad in Mica & Quartz stone tiles that extended all the way to the underside of the roof; but instead of an open fire - and mainly for safety reasons - a slow combustion stove was installed.

The large panes of glass were to be replaced with cedar windows that stepped in formation with the stone chimney breast.

Work in progress on the southern feature wall.

The finished Space

On entering the studio, you are immediately greeted by the Mica & Quartz stone clad full height chimney breast which takes pride of place in the finished space. Despite its imposition the chimney does not dominate due the height of the studio ceiling and the large expanses of glass.

The Mica Quartz fireplace and chimney create a stunning feature for this space

Close the door behind you and observe the warm walnut flooring and crisp Dulux Natural White walls and woodwork. These combine to create a charming space that quickly fills you with a sense of peace, calm and tranquility.

The window to the left of the chimney stack used frosted glass to provide privacy to the studio, obscuring the view from the windows of the main house.

The kitchen (pictured below) is compact and eloquently appointed where all the modern conveniences have been fitted including a slimline dishwasher, convection microwave, gas cook-top and fridge.

Compact and practical kitchen with window splash-back

To allow extra light into the already bright and airy kitchen, an opaque glazed window was fitted as the splash back for the stove. A soft shadow of bamboo is cast onto the glass by sunlight, adding a moving pattern to the space. The cabinetry continues the theme of natural timbers topped with a Laminex faux quartz bench.

Tucked into the further most corner of the ground floor is the generously sized bathroom. The room is dominated by the large corner spa bath, but also contains a walk in shower with a rain forest shower head.

Shiny mosaic tiles abound in the commodious bathroom

Metal mosaic tiles adorn the walls of the bathroom, complemented by white ceramic fittings, the

natural white walls and the dark stained timber vanity unit. For continuity the bathroom floor was tiled is a similar tone to the walnut floors.

The light fittings are small wall mounted glass cubes and are placed above the vanity and over the spa bath. The effect they create is a soft warm glow, perfect for anyone about to enjoy the generously deep spa bath with a glass or two of Mumm.

Before ascending to the mezzanine level take a moment to view the two large glass doors that take up the entire eastern wall of the lower level. Their purpose is to let much needed light into the space, but also afford a wonderful view of the terraced random stone walled garden beyond. Retracting the lounge-room door allows instant access to the private deck and barbecue area.

View of the open plan living space and garden beyond.

As you climb the carpeted stairs, low wattage recessed lights have been installed at skirting level to illuminate the way to the bedroom above.

Recessed lights guide the way on the staircase

Once on the mezzanine level your are greeted by a queen-sized bed and a very comfortable sitting area. The large windows of the southern wall afford you a view of the valley beyond, even when you’re sitting in bed - thanks to the installation of a glass balustrade - and when the mist rolls in and the view disappears, you can take in the fireplace and the lounge-room below.

The whole area is carpeted in a plush, chocolate coloured deep pile wool carpet that continues the theme of the floor toning throughout the studio. Carpet was chosen over timber because of the warmth value on feet, especially needed during the winter months in the mountain climate.

Every inch of available space is used in the loft bedroom.

Despite there being a shortage of head room, the space is still very comfortable, made more luxurious by the generous bed and high-end bed linen from Bed Bath & Table.

It is commonly said that a well designed building or space, just like scenic countryside, can re- energize and calm the soul. Every time I entered this building, I felt relaxed and immensely proud of what I had achieved.

My job here is done.

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1 Comment

Bonny Hunter-Howe
Bonny Hunter-Howe
Apr 14, 2020

I so remember that fabulous studio you converted out of a large shed, every spare metre was utilised. Décor and detail fantastic. Now I shall look forward to your other projects

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