Renovating Resources

Memory is the essence of the Breuer House – gathering, sharing and making memories. This family home design looks out to a tree canopy and incorporates ideas of modernism, the bushscape and affordability.

The Breuer House – a place to ‘be’

For Carol Marra + Ken Yeh, every aspect of a building design has a reason or purpose. The focus and outcome of the design journey is one of exploration and understanding, ensuring each individual result is specific and meaningful. Marra + Yeh share an obsession for quality craftsmanship and the handmade. They stand true to their holistic and environmental beliefs, constantly distilling and simplifying, whilst seeking environmental performance and resilience.

Client Brief

“We want to create more living space in our home and create better connection between indoor and outdoor space to take advantage of the view to the tall trees in the adjoining park. Ideally we would also like to modify the layout of the existing building to create better flow.

The new addition should be light and airy with high ceilings and a real sense of space. At the same time it is very important that the space be as cool as possible in summer but easily warmed in winter. We would like to be able to do this without the use of air-conditioning

The new design should contribute to making the arrangement/use of rooms more flexible, with the ability to partition/separate spaces in some way and to enable spaces to serve multiple functions. We are interested in being as green as possible. Budget is also very important to us.”

Project Overview


The courtyard provides a sheltered space in which to read and expands interior spaces outwards.

Memory is the essence of Breuer House – gathering, sharing and making memories. Having grown up in the area and spent 15 years in the original house, obliteration of the modest suburban brick home was not desirable to the clients. But neither was the home’s ensemble of chopped-up rooms, lack of light and poor connection to the mature grove of eucalypts next door.

The project approach incorporated the ideas of modernism – functional yet beautiful, modest yet spacious, straightforward in its construction but rich in details and material expression. These principles were joined by pragmatic considerations – incorporating the bushscape, addressing environmental sustainability, and affordability. While presenting a modest scale to the streetscape once inside the house reveals itself through a series of thresholds linking old and new, presenting increasingly larger volumes with finer detail.

The result is a home of small footprint but generous proportions and high environmental performance, with every room having an outlook to the tree canopy.

Liveability Features

The primary consideration was to make a small house so as to reduce resource use and site disturbance. At 180 sqm for a family of five it is roughly 30% smaller than the average Australian house. Timber from certified and local sources was chosen as the predominant material both for its ease of construction and aesthetic appearance. The building is predominantly lightweight, but thermal mass was incorporated both in the slab and the south wall.

Cross-ventilation is achieved for all the living areas with openings that can be left open at night to flush the building. The roof form was driven specifically by the need to accommodate solar panels that would have sufficient north exposure with minimal overshadowing. The lighting scheme makes extensive use of both fluorescent and LED fittings while openings with low-e glass admit abundant natural light to minimise energy use.

The outdoor areas function as specific microclimates, the courtyard being warm and protected from winds in winter while the south deck is cool and shaded in summer.


Internal spaces link to the outside through view of sky and treetops.

Environmental Performance

After the owners had been living in the house for about a year and a half the architect conducted a post-construction environmental review. The results of the review confirmed that the design principles employed have resulted in higher energy efficiency. In particular, electricity consumption has been reduced by 29% throughout the year despite a 35% increase to the area of the house.


M002_PL00 GREY

Project Details

ArchitectMarra + Yeh Architects
BuilderM. Kerr
PhotographyBrett Boardman
LocationForestville, NSW
Climate ZoneTemperate humid, cool winters, hot summers
ClientsChris & Belinda
Building Area180m2
Project costs$450,000
Year of completion2013
Caroline Pidcock

Caroline Pidcock

Caroline Pidcock, the curator of our Liveability ‘be inspired by design’ is founding Principal of the design firm PIDCOCK – Architecture + Sustainability which is focused on desirable, sustainable architecture. The practice aims to excel in ecologically sustainable design, documentation and advice and to demonstrate how such a focus can deliver potent influences in design and can produce delightful experiences. PIDCOCK is particularly interested in renovations, where it is possible to identify the best of what is existing and help to recognise, adapt and develop this to be part of a strong and relevant future.

Leave a Reply