Architect Lachlan Seegers designed the Erskineville House around an unusual focal point – a native spotted gum tree that now takes pride of place in the courtyard at the heart of this suburban dwelling, in the Sydney suburb of Erskineville. The site is narrow (just 4.8m wide) but long (nearly 36m), and the house with its minimalist interior is designed behind a fairly traditional façade.
At ground-floor level, the house presents a conventional period frontage, complete with arched windows, a covered porch and a corrugated metal roof.
Inside, however, the linear plan has been conceived to incorporate pockets of function amidst long vistas and spaces, with a special emphasis on verticality in what is still a two-storey property.
The house is effectively cut into two sections by the new courtyard, above which towers the 20m spotted gum tree. The tree’s origins date back to the 1970s, when Sydney’s town council gave native saplings to anyone who wanted one as part of a programme to reinstate the city’s lost vegetation.
Hardy and striking, the tree creates an ever-changing centrepiece, with its distinctive mottled bark and dense canopy.
From the entrance lobby, one passes a ground-floor bedroom, then into the main space, a sequence of a sunken living room, a kitchen, and a dining room wrapped around the glazed courtyard, with the cooking area occupying a galley-style space alongside the edge.
A utility space, bathroom, and garage occupy the far end of the plan.
Two separate staircases, one at each end of the property, lead up to two independent, self-contained bedroom suites, each with its own terrace and views into the branches of the tree.
A raised roof above the galley kitchen is punctuated by three large rooflights with yellow-painted walls, enhancing the sense of space and bringing more views of the tree. The bathrooms also have lightwells, lined with dark blue tiles to create an underwater ambiance.
The gum tree isn’t just a constant presence; the colour of its bark informed the tint used on the joinery, and spotted gum was used for the stairs.
Lachlan Seegers speaks of ‘fine-tuning’ every view and aperture, creating a living space that is alive with subtle colour, rippling light, and warm materiality. The house was shortlisted for a 2022 Australian