Tamarama Semi Detached: A Bit of Low Cost Glamor in Tamarama

Tamarama Semi Detached by David Langston-Jones Architect

Tamarama Glamor Minus the Pricetag

Sydney's beachside suburb Tamarama, is better known as Glamarama by the locals. Tamarama is where wannabe trend setters come to sunbathe, swim or simply be seen.

It's not the type of place you'd expect to find a simple, low budget renovation using simple materials and an ethos of “architecture of modest invention”. But that's exactly what Architect David Langston-Jones has created. And it's not out of place. The home is confident and assured, despite its discount price-tag.

The low cost renovation leaves the home bright, airy and deals with serious noise and overlooking issues from an overbearing 1950s apartment building adjacent, proving no matter how constrained your budget, a talented architect can drastically improve your lifestyle and inject a bit of glamor at the same time.

Tamarama Semi Detached

Humble Palette

Humble materials, plywood, fibre cement and corrugated iron are used in this project in response to the tight budget. These materials come pre-finished, are easily installed and add a richness of texture and quality that is lacking in similarly budget-conscious materials. Despite the humble palette, the home doesn't look cheap or low cost.

Tamarama Semi Detached

Know Where to Spend Money

Part of David's skill as an architect is knowing where to spend money in projects to get the biggest impact. Quality fittings like taps and stainless steel finishes inject a bit of luxury. These quality materials are used in high traffic areas to ensure that no amount of abuse will leave the house looking poor quality or cheap.

Otherwise, affordable materials are left in their natural state or brightened up with a coat of bright, "Le Corbusier" color. Visually, plywood with a bright coat of paint is immediately transformed into another material without the extra expense.

Knowing where to spend money and where to skimp is the trick to making a space look glamorous without the luxe price-tag.

Tamarama Semi Detached

Flipping the Living

The new living area enjoys natural light from the outdoor space. This was acheived by relocating the bathroom and services to the center of the house. This flip means the house has a better connection to the outdoors and more natural light.

From inside, the oppressive modernist apartment block is cleverly concealed. Two glass doors bookend a bank of louvre windows, placed at a height so people sitting in the lounge can see the backyard. This composition means people from the adjacent apartment building can't see in to the living area and visa versa, creating a sense of privacy that was lacking previously.

The space above and below the louvre windows has been utilized for a fireplace, television and additional storage.

Tamarama Semi Detached

Creating Space from Thin Air

The bathroom has a false ceiling, creating enough space above it for a mezzanine level with a study and spare bed. Otherwise wasted space has been put to task -- it's like materializing space from thin air. To minimize the intrusion of a stair into the living space, an efficient alternating tread stair is used. No space is wasted in this efficient renovation.

Tamarama Semi Detached
Tamarama Semi Detached
Tamarama Semi Detached


From outside the house is a modern take on Australiana. The corrugated iron facade and architectural grate step are more agricultural than urban, but it works thanks to modern touches like the over-sized gutter planter box.

The thickening of this east wall provides sun protection, noise insulation and conceals the living areas storage space.

Gravel underfoot and a mix of native grasses keeps the outdoor courtyard casual and very Australian feeling.

Tamarama Semi Detached

Outdoor Fun

Only once stepping out the door does the large apartment building come into view, a reminder of how intrusive it would have been both pre-renovation or with a less thoughtful design. The courtyard David has created is fun and inviting, despite being simple and restrained.

A concrete block wall has holes drilled in it to support fluffy native plants, softening the severity of the boundary. Grasses and ground covers blur the edges of the garden and the start of the gravel, while large hardwood bench seats create a casual sunny spot to rest or chat.

The edge detail of the gutter/window box with large river stones shows a simple way of dealing with water runoff from both rain and the plants.

Tamarama Semi Detached
Tamarama Semi Detached

Tamarama Semi Detached

In Sydney's well-heeled beach side suburb of Tamarama, a modest, cost-effective renovation is not what you'd expect to find. However, David Langston-Jones' renovation of this small Arts and Crafts style semi detached house is exactly that. Restrained, considered, resourceful and, at times, playful. Tamarama Semi Detatched achieves a lot within the constraints of a tight budget and serious overlooking issues.

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