Doorzien House

Listen to Melonie Bayle-Smith

Architect Melonie Bayl-Smith of BIJL Architecture takes us behind the scenes and deconstructs the Doorzien House project.

You’d think the renovation of a federation-style semi would be straightforward.

But this project is in a Sydney suburb that’s full of high-value, heritage-conservation assets.

So there are lots of eyes scrutinizing every move you make.


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Project Description

Designed by Sydney-based BIJL Architecture, the Doorzien House modestly proffers a new precedent in a challenging conservation environment by breaking rank and dismantling the cottage typology.

Tensions between private freedom and prescriptive planning are coupled with exploring the interplay of view and viewing, solid and void, through a multi-layered, sensory design response.

BIJL Architecture’s client brief appeared contradictory and unachievable: to create a home where “in crossing the threshold, the past was to be left behind”, and where interconnected yet separate living spaces should be experienced simultaneously.

To address these conundrums, BIJL Architecture pursued a Janus-like composition, moving the house from a traditional façade-driven framework to a contemporary rear form that asserts a new typology, pushing the conservation dialogue in unexpected ways.

Investigating the tension between “interconnected yet separate”, Melonie Bayl-Smith of BIJL Architecture explored a view/viewing framework that leverages the site’s narrowness, steepness, and views.

Opening up vertical and horizontal flow – Doorzien is Dutch for see-through – the material language evolved as solid and void to create dynamism and visual richness.

Glass elements – skylights, glass flooring, highlight panels and balustrading – conduct light and views. See-through corners erase expected barriers; turning any corner offers a different perspective, ever-changing under soft natural light.

At the lowest floor level, the skylights and ridgeline twelve metres above are clearly visible, creating a dramatic sense of space.

Solid elements articulate the expressed texture of original brickwork, the smooth white expanse of walls, the rhythm of steel cross beams, and the dark, brooding joinery peninsula that delineates kitchen and living spaces from sleeping quarters.

To embrace their clients’ desired openness and connectivity between the floor levels and surrounding context, BIJL Architecture dismantled the existing plan.

The broad Sydney Harbour view and neighbouring vistas are exploited by the hybridized living spaces, while each room retains its individual focus and remains intimate and warm through the material palette and layered lighting.

The BIJL Architecture design team-oriented living spaces to the rear; multiple interior view lines serve as a counterpoint to the expansive harbour views.

This approach continues to the rear garden, with bleacher-style steps moderating the level change, extending the study and sitting room interiors to form a third living space.

In Kirribilli’s conservation area, Doorzien is surrounded by Victorian terraces and manors, with the Prime Minister’s official Sydney residence (Kirribilli) the Governor General’s residence (Admiralty House) both nearby.

On a steep sandstone ridge, the Doorzien dwelling overlooks Careening Cove, Neutral Harbour, and Kurraba Point, and vice versa.

Council required both “facades” to align with heritage expectations.

To elevate Doorzien’s streetscape presentation, BIJL Architecture retained its heritage “skin”, removing unsympathetic prior alterations and applying restorative touches through material, colour, and landscaping.

The eclectic rear “streetscape” offered the BIJL Architecture team an opportunity to forge a new heritage narrative. Their response was the zinc-clad rear addition, a significant formal assertion drawing on Kirribilli’s naval and industrial history.

Adopting the client’s expertise, BIJL Architecture integrated a world-first installation of Redback Technologies’ Gen II inverter and battery with 3.5kW of Nu-Lok solar roof tiles – the first approved installation for a NSW conservation area.

Materials and finishes were selected for durability, low maintenance requirements, and anticipated longevity with respect to aesthetics and functionality.

The solar tiles and battery were calculated to offset energy usage in the short term, moving the dwelling to a future off-grid.

Collaborative practices were exemplified by the cantilevering stair and balustrade.

Its structural and tread design complexities demanded a design and prototyping approach that merged BIJL Architecture’s efforts with the structural engineer, builder, metal fabricator, joiner, glazier, and timber board manufacturer.

Similarly, the custom bronze joinery handles capture an integrative interior design approach, linking aesthetic commonalities between existing and new furniture, built-in joinery, artworks, balustrading and integrated custom lighting.

Key Products Used

Project Details

Project Size – 214 m2
Site Area – 240 m2
Completion Date – 2017
Building Levels – 2

Project Team


BIJL Architecture

BIJL Architecture is an ambitious Sydney practice seeking to challenge the status quo. Led by Melonie Bayl-Smith, they believe that our homes, schools, and places of gathering are an expression of our communities’ collective values and hopes, for now and for the future.

Structural Engineering

Cantilever Consulting Engineers

Cantilever Consulting Engineers is one of the most sought-after structural engineering firms for architectural buildings in Sydney.

Their focus is on high-end architectural buildings where an experienced eye for design is required and where solutions above the ordinary are required.

Founded in 2010, their award-winning team of 15 have completed over 3,000 projects.

Cantilever Consulting Engineers are known for their dedication to excellence, innovation and sustainability, and understanding of design.

Stormwater Engineering


With over 35 years’ experience, Partridge is a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy, providing services in the field of structural, civil, hydraulic, stormwater, remedial, forensic, and event engineering. With branches in both New South Wales and Victoria, they operate nationally and abroad to deliver consistent outstanding solutions.

Landscape Architects

Ground Ink

Ground Ink is a Landscape Architecture studio based in Chatswood, New South Wales.

The practice is comprised of accomplished landscape architects with over thirty years of combined project experience.


SKOPE Constructions

Skope Constructions is managed by John and Brent Carolan.

They combine to provide over 40 years of experience in the disciplines of Construction and Project Management, Quantity Surveying, and Property Economics.

Their work includes the construction of over 100 residential, commercial and industrial projects covering a diverse range of construction methods and techniques.

Construction projects completed under their management have ranged in value between $500,000 and $15,000,000.


Katherine Lu

Katherine is a well-established Sydney-based commercial photographer specialising in architecture and interiors.

Photo Gallery

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Design © 2020 Bijl Architecture. All Rights Reserved.| Images © 2020 Katherine Lu. All Rights Reserved.

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