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When Geraldine Cleary asked Brisbane-based firm Donovan Hill Architects to build her home, she had no idea that their humble project—which has come to be known as the “D House”—would win the 2001 Robin Boyd Award, Australia’s most prestigious residential architecture prize.

“My house was intentionally designed to accommodate multiple configurations of relationships, activities and events, despite its modest scale,” says Geraldine, a health and social policy researcher. She loves sharing her space with guests and frequently offers up her house as an inner-city venue for friends to host events. “Shared living is an important part of being operative in society and the world,” she says. The house has accommodated various tenants over the years, including Timothy Hill—the lead architect of the D House—and her current lodger, the filmmaker and photographer Alex Chomicz.

One of Geraldine’s favorite aspects of her home is the interplay between the inside and the outside—this was achieved by designing the interior and exterior floor heights at the same exact level, extending certain materials to the outside realm and placing skylights above some interior walls, doors and parts of the kitchen, which allows these elements to be lit from above and cast shadows as if they were freestanding outdoor structures. “This creates continuity between the public and private territories, the inside and outside areas, and the domestic and civic realms,” Geraldine says. The high garden walls break down the breeze, light and sight lines so she can also treat the outside space like a room. “I furnish it with things you would normally associate with the interior of a house, such as flowers, upholstery and books, without them being blown around,” she says.

  • Words:
    Rachel Eva Lim
  • Photography:
    Sharyn Cairns

“Shared living is an important part of being operative in society and the world.”

The interesting proportions of the house are highlighted by the use of scale: Smaller bedroom doors contrast with larger doors in the rest of the home, and the low and long window near the entrance creates the illusion that the wall it’s set in is much bigger. “Some things are a bit too small and some are a bit too big, and the act of contrasting them engages the imagination,” she says. Light also plays a huge role in creating the home’s overall character—the house and its surfaces are oriented so the light that enters is reflected and therefore never too bright or harsh: The overall effect elevates the existing attributes of Geraldine’s home. “The atmosphere of the house as a whole is calming, uplifting and comforting, and the changes in the light and shadows from morning to night and from one season to the next are sustaining,” she says.

This is an excerpt from our latest book, The Kinfolk Home. Order your copy here.

  • Words:
    Rachel Eva Lim
  • Photography:
    Sharyn Cairns
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