Traditional façade hides a spacious, minimalist interior in Sydney

Australian architect Lachlan Seegers creates Erskineville House, a minimalist home behind a conventional façade

Erskineville House, Sydney, by Lachlan Seegers Architect
(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

Architect Lachlan Seegers designed the Erskineville House around an unusual focal point – a native spotted gum tree that now takes pride of place in the courtyard at the heart of this suburban dwelling, in the Sydney suburb of Erskineville. The site is narrow (just 4.8m wide) but long (nearly 36m), and the house with its minimalist interior is designed behind a fairly traditional façade. 

Erskineville House, Sydney, by Lachlan Seegers Architect, with a minimalist interior behind this traditional façade

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

At ground-floor level, the house presents a conventional period frontage, complete with arched windows, a covered porch and a corrugated metal roof.

Inside, however, the linear plan has been conceived to incorporate pockets of function amidst long vistas and spaces, with a special emphasis on verticality in what is still a two-storey property. 

Erskineville House, Sydney, by Lachlan Seegers Architect, with a minimalist interior

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

The house is effectively cut into two sections by the new courtyard, above which towers the 20m spotted gum tree. The tree’s origins date back to the 1970s, when Sydney’s town council gave native saplings to anyone who wanted one as part of a programme to reinstate the city’s lost vegetation.

Hardy and striking, the tree creates an ever-changing centrepiece, with its distinctive mottled bark and dense canopy. 

Living space of a Sydney house

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

From the entrance lobby, one passes a ground-floor bedroom, then into the main space, a sequence of a sunken living room, a kitchen, and a dining room wrapped around the glazed courtyard, with the cooking area occupying a galley-style space alongside the edge.

A utility space, bathroom, and garage occupy the far end of the plan. 

Stairway at a Sydney house

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

Two separate staircases, one at each end of the property, lead up to two independent, self-contained bedroom suites, each with its own terrace and views into the branches of the tree.

A raised roof above the galley kitchen is punctuated by three large rooflights with yellow-painted walls, enhancing the sense of space and bringing more views of the tree. The bathrooms also have lightwells, lined with dark blue tiles to create an underwater ambiance.

Rooflight at Sydney house

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

The gum tree isn’t just a constant presence; the colour of its bark informed the tint used on the joinery, and spotted gum was used for the stairs.

Lachlan Seegers speaks of ‘fine-tuning’ every view and aperture, creating a living space that is alive with subtle colour, rippling light, and warm materiality.  The house was shortlisted for a 2022 Australian Interior Design Award.

Minimalist kitchen

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

Minimalist hall and stairway

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)

View from inside a courtyard

(Image credit: Rory Gardiner)


Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.

With contributions from