Australia’s ‘skinniest house’ is a bargain
IT IS difficult to imagine a more challenging site to build a family home on.
But for owners Kirsty Volz and David Toussaint, the 2.3m wide, 317sq m parcel of land abutting the train line in the Brisbane suburb of Clayfield was just what they had been searching for.
"We bought it from Queensland Rail for a steal, an incredibly cheap block of land for Clayfield," Kirsty says.
"I guess a lot of people thought building on it was just too hard. We thought, 'We can afford that!'"
The narrow site called for some creative thinking, which suited Kirsty and David's aptitude for experimenting with design. They were motivated to create a modest house for themselves and their son, happy to trade floor size for amenity and garden.
"We are a small family and we wanted to build a two-bedroom house but lending criteria required us to build three," Kirsty says. "We settled on a plan with a third bedroom that would operate flexibly."
Working with builder Thallon Mole Group, Kirsty and David ordered rooms into two slender, double-storey towers, connected in the middle by sheltered walkways.
"We put the circulation along the southern edge which meant that we could carve out these little voids to get light and ventilation through," Kirsty says.
The separation of the two towers brings plant life, sunshine and breeze to the centre of the plan. At ground level the patio serves as an extension of the kitchen and above it, the walkway with its large window creates a balcony from which conversation can be shared between upper and lower floors.
"We were committed to maximising the narrow site," Kirsty says. "At the front we didn't want a single storey carport cutting the house in half - we wanted a pure and simple form and to express the material."
Which is why the front of the house appears distinctly tall and narrow, its perforated timber facade continuing to enclose the veranda above the carport.
"The veranda is a tough space, due west and looking over the train line," Kirsty says. "The perforated facade goes some ways to insulating the adjacent room from the afternoon sun and train line."
With the street frontage of just 2.3m, there was space for a single car but not a front door as well. Instead a garden path along the northern boundary guides visitors to the patio and entrance at the rear tower. Living spaces extend from there, opening into a second storey lounge room and a staircase which connects to the two bedrooms above.
Large doors establish an ease of connection to the generous rear garden.
The third bedroom, which Kirsty and David were initially reluctant to include, has turned quite a profit for them since they moved in.
"When we first moved in we rented the third room out. We designed it to have a separate entrance, plus its own bathroom," Kirsty says. "In the future it could operate as a home office separate from the main household. In fact my mother has already claimed it for old age so it's turned out to be quite handy."