After closely watching the construction progress of a home in your suburb, you’ve probably wished for one last stickybeak once it’s finished.
Such was certainly the case for the neighbors of Jimmy Thompson, Design Director at MJA Studio, when his North Perth home came to life.
Not only was it next to a small park in a subdivision with battle ax blocks (one block of land behind another with road access), but its slab quickly showed it was not a typical layout.
Referred to as a courtyard house, Thompson designed his dwelling to be arranged around an interior garden and have a green roof. The task he and his partner Angie gave themselves was to provide more open space, garden and courtyard than the block itself offered.
The pair were dream neighbors for inquisitive North Perth residents and sent letters to the community asking for drinks once the house was completed.
“A lot of people really loved the house and were really mesmerized when they walked in,” he says, adding that people routinely waved “G’day” while walking their dogs.
“We were introduced to a lady who had been here for about 50 years…she said it was a beautiful house.”
After living in the Highgate and Northbridge area for 13 years in houses typically 100 years old, Thompson said they looked for the ideal property in the area. The North Perth Block happened to catch their eye at an airport in Norway.
“I really love established suburbs and have loved living in them, but density needs to be built,” he says. “However, what often happens is that the back is subdivided and all the large trees are lost, and then the block is filled with houses.”
The neighbors would have noticed during their grand tour that it had achieved an impressive 277m2 of garden and open space on a 256m2 block.
Thompson’s design was meant for a forever home, so it was filled with unique elements that reflect the couple’s lifestyle and commitment to sustainability.
The heart of the home, the central courtyard, is a tranquil space that blurs the idea of what a garden space is typically used for. There’s an outdoor bathroom, kitchen, day bed and medicinal garden – with plants for teas and tinctures – and plenty of space for the cats to bask in the sun.
Also on the ground floor is the master bedroom, en-suite bathroom, laundry room and storage room as well as edible trees such as stone fruit, citrus and pomegranates and herbs. Upstairs is the kitchen, dining and bar area with city views, a patio, roof access and a green roof with WA endemic plants.
The house is climate responsive and is designed to be at a comfortable temperature all year round – not an easy task considering the size and location of the block.
In order for this to work, Thompson has chosen the orientation and materials to ensure that natural light and the sun are used optimally at all times of the day and year.
There is also a thermal chimney at the top of the stairs, allowing heat to rise during the day. When it cools down at night, the louvers can be opened to expel the air.
Interior and exterior lines are further blurred by using the same materials in both spaces. Thompson used glazed blue bricks as well as white sacked masonry—the latter also reflects heat—and recycled wood and brick.
“The walls inside have a lot of character just to balance all the glass and means it’s a really nice backdrop for all of our things,” he says.
“It’s a contemporary house, not a minimal house, and designed to hold all the maximalist stuff that has accumulated over the years, which I think is important.
“Houses should be able to show the personality of their owners. If they’re too picky, you feel like you have to be quiet all the time.”
Jimmy’s House by MJA Studio in collaboration with Iota and Studio Roam was shortlisted the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards.