It’s easy to see why the kitchen is Will and Julia Dangar’s favourite space in this exquisite semi-detached home in Sydney’s Bondi. It’s the centrepiece of stunning Bismarck House, which was recently renovated by Andrew Burges Architects and recognised in the 2020 Houses Awards. The annual awards champion the best of Australia’s residential architecture, and the upgrade to this corner laneway beauty took out the House Alteration & Addition Under 200m2 category last month.

Its transformation from nondescript postwar home into a contemporary urban oasis is thanks in part to Will’s input. He’s a well-regarded landscape architect and director at Dangar Barin Smith, and the renovation was very much driven by the garden.

The kitchen sits at one end of the renovated open-plan space on the ground floor; at the other is a small, pretty rear garden. In between, the lounge-room and dining-room areas are punctuated by geometric garden beds. Full-length windows bring the outside in, showing off splendid landscaped greenery and allowing the sunshine to spill in.

“The inspiration for the garden started with the mature euphorbia tree, which is the large cactus planted outside the wall in the lane. It was here from day one so we kept it, and the succulent theme,” says Will. “Julia and I wanted a low-maintenance garden that was very bold from the inside looking out – a real surprise as you pass through the original hall to the new kitchen and dining spaces. Succulents like Agave Americana, Euphorbia ingens, Portulacaria afra and Euphorbia tirucalli (“firesticks”) populate the internal courtyard, with a vigorous purple bougainvillea (Magnifica tralii) spilling over the wall into the lane.”

The two-storey home doesn’t look like much from the front (the facade and front room are unchanged), but walk down the abutting laneway and the smart renovation – and beautiful garden – is revealed. You’ll see the clever mix of contemporary elements, such as steel, glass and concrete, and recycled and repurposed materials. Step inside to find rugs from Morocco, 1970s ceramics, art and vintage furniture, which give the place a warm, established feel.

The 2020 Houses Awards judges are also fans of the kitchen, pinpointing the window opening onto the laneway as one of their favourite aspects of the redesign. They say it encourages “serendipitous social interaction with passers-by – an important and urbane connection that is so often avoided in tight metropolitan sites”.

The Dangars, who share the home with their two children, Summer and Tom, tell Broadsheet this isn’t their forever home but a city residence for the family in the future. Meanwhile, they’re going to offer Bismarck House for short-term stays, events and shoots.

Names: Will and Julia Dangar
Live: In a reinvented semi in Bondi
Since: 2019
With who: Summer (12), Tom (10)

Have you made any changes architecturally since you moved in?
Yes, a major renovation to the rear of the house.

What made you fall in love with the house in the first place?
We are always attracted to dwellings that are on corner sites facing north. This way the long side of the house captures the sunlight throughout winter. We also love the urban feel of the laneway.

Can you describe the house’s mood, and also your approach to decorating it?
It’s a newly completed architect-designed home in the heart of Bondi that feels like an urban oasis because the line between inside and out blurs to create that perfect Sydney summer experience. The aesthetic of the house is soft industrial, with reclaimed whitewashed brick walls combined with a mix of designer and vintage furniture and lighting.

What is the history or context of this house?
It’s on the lane behind the eclectic shops of Bondi Road. It’s a mix, with many original federation and art deco remnants punctuated by a quality new residential and commercial build.

Favourite room in the house
The kitchen. It captures beautiful light throughout the day via the skylight. The American oak shelves and drawers fill the space with warmth, and the kitchen bench window is a lovely place to sit and interact with passers-by in the laneway.

Favourite item in the house
The sliding window that leads into the laneway. And vintage chairs from Pamono.

Favourite homewares and art
Saint Cloche Gallery, a contemporary gallery in [Sydney’s] Paddington. Spence and Lyda for designer furniture and lighting. For vintage and contemporary furniture it’s Pamono, as well as Montmartre Store in Mosman.

“Home Visits” is a Broadsheet series exploring homes across Australia.