The three-storey house forms part of a typical late 19th-century terrace in the Sydney suburb of Paddington, with party walls either side at 13ft centres. With an overall depth of 12m and a clear internal width of 3.7m (3.2m on ground floor), the house is very narrow and deep. This leads to an inordinate area of internal circulation that reduces the amount of living space available to a critical degree. Compounding this are the overly-generous 2.8m (9ft 6in) floor-to-ceiling heights, requiring longer than usual staircases, further reducing available living area. The entrance is from the street at the middle (upper ground floor) level, providing the opportunity to access the first floor and the 30 sq m garden at the lower ground floor level by single-flight stairs.

The owner’s required separate bedrooms for each of their two children, with neither child occupying the ground floor room adjacent the street for safety and security; both children were to be on the same floor as the master bedroom. Parents, children and guests were each to have separate bathrooms; the laundry to be separate from both parent’s and children’s bathrooms; and a store room, if possible.

The proposal introduces a service tower in the middle of the plan that contains the staircase, bathrooms, laundry, storeroom and a child’s bedroom. As the head height in these spaces is less than that required in the living spaces, the service tower is four storeys, which means that the service spaces are entered sometimes off the living spaces and sometimes off a stair landing. The staircase is top-lit and organised across the plan to increase efficiency, sometimes as a single flight and sometimes as a dogleg, sometimes enclosed and sometimes open, allowing skylight to filter into living spaces. The change in natural ground level allows dining and living areas to have a dynamic relationship on separate levels: the living area relating directly to the public domain of the street, surveying the garden from above, while the dining area can be more intimate and family-orientated, engaging with the privacy of the garden.