The stunning North Perth house by MJA Studio dedicated to greenery, open space and sustainability

Headshot of Jade Jurewicz
Jade JurewiczThe West Australian
This striking home dedicated to gardens, open space and sustainability stands out for all the right reasons, but will it take the top spot in the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards?
Camera IconThis striking home dedicated to gardens, open space and sustainability stands out for all the right reasons, but will it take the top spot in the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards? Credit: Jack Lovel

After closely watching the progress of a home being built in your suburb, you’ve probably wished for a final stickybeak once it’s finished.

This was certainly the case for the neighbours of Jimmy Thompson, design director at MJA Studio, when his North Perth home was coming to life.

Not only was it next to a small park on a battle-axe block subdivision (a block of land behind another with driveway access to the street) but its slab quickly revealed it wasn’t your typical floor-plan.

Dubbed a courtyard house, Thompson designed his abode to be arranged around an internal garden as well as to include a green roof. The brief he and partner Angie gave themselves was to provide more open space, garden and courtyard than the block itself offered.

The duo were dream neighbours for curious North Perth residents, letter-dropping the community to invite them around for a drink once the home was completed.

“Lots of people really loved the house and were really intrigued when they got inside,” he says, adding people would regularly wave G’day when walking their dogs.

“We were introduced to one lady who had been here for 50 or so years … she said it was a beautiful house.”

After living around the Highgate and Northbridge area for 13 years, in homes typically 100 years old give or take, Thompson says they were on the lookout for the ideal parcel of land in this area. The North Perth block happened to catch their eye while at an airport in Norway.

“I really love established suburbs and have loved to live in them, but density needs to happen,” he says. “What often happens, though, is the back gets subdivided and all of the big trees get lost and then the block gets filled up by house.”

Neighbours would have found during their grand tour that it impressively achieved 277sqm of gardens and open space on a 256sqm block.

Thompson’s design was for a forever home, so it has been filled with unique elements that reflect the couple’s lifestyle and dedication to sustainability.

The heart of the home, the central courtyard, is a tranquil space that blurs the notion of what a garden space would typically be used for. There is an outdoor bath, kitchen, daybed and medicinal garden — with plants for teas and tinctures — and plenty of space for the cats to bask in some sunshine.

Downstairs is also the main bedroom, ensuite bathroom, laundry and storage, as well as edible trees including stone fruit, citrus and pomegranate, and herbs. Upstairs is the kitchen, dining and bar area with views of the city, a terrace, roof access and a green roof with WA-endemic plants.

The home is climate-responsive and designed to be a comfortable temperature year-round — no easy task when you consider the block’s size and position.

For this to work, Thompson was specific with its orientation and materials to ensure it made the most of natural light and the sun whatever time of the day or season.

There is also a thermal chimney at the top of the stairs that allows heat to rise during the day, then when it starts to cool down at night, the louvres can be opened to expel the air.

Indoor and outdoor lines are further blurred throughout by using the same materials in both spaces. Thompson used glazed blue bricks as well as white bagged brickwork — the latter also reflects heat — as well as recycled timber and bricks.

“There is a lot of character in the walls internally, just to balance out all of the glass, and means it’s a really nice backdrop for all of our things,” he says.

“It’s a contemporary house, not a minimal house, and designed to take all of the maximalist stuff that has accumulated over all of the years, which I think is important.

“Houses should be able to display the personality of their owners. If they’re too fussy you kind of feel like you have to be quiet all of the time.”

Jimmy’s House by MJA Studio in association with Iota and Studio Roam has been shortlisted in the 2022 Australian Interior Design Awards.

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