Inside Qianyi Lim & Ross Paxman’s Stable House

Images by Nic Gossage

Over the years we’ve been lucky to visit hundreds of incredible homes on the IN BED Journal, however, it’s safe to say Qianyi Lim & Ross Paxman’s ‘Stable House’ falls into a category all its own. Completed by the couple in mid 2020 the project began with a dilapidated horse stable on a piece of land running alongside regenerative bush. For Qianyi, co-founder of architecture practice Sibling, the project was deeply connected to family and designed to both make space for new arrivals (the couple welcomed their daughter Linya last year) and also cater to relatives who would be spending time in the space. We spoke with Qianyi and Ross about the design and build process, their ever-growing collection of art and life as new parents.

Qianyi: “Our home sits on Gadigal land, at the rear of an inner-city block in Forest Lodge, Sydney, between tightly packed terraces on one side and a native bushland reserve on the other. The house is built within the remnants of a late Victorian horse stable, with many of the original brick walls still clearly visible both inside and outside the house. We’ve lived here since June 2020, when we completed the build; we moved in just after the first lockdown with my sister, Xinyi, who had escaped New York before the borders closed. Little did we know we were in for two long years of on again, off again lockdowns! But we were very happy to have this place to isolate in.

Being so close to the bush reserve here is quite magical; there’s very little city noise and we hear birds all day long. The house was designed to celebrate the history of the site and the brick walls of the stables, but also to become an extension of the nearby bushland and a place to enjoy it.”

Qianyi: “I established Sibling with a group of my friends from architecture school in Melbourne, almost a decade ago. In 2017, I returned home to Sydney to expand the practice here. We are now a team of seventeen operating across both studios.

As a practice we are passionate about how we can design environments that enable positive social interactions. Our projects span across public, domestic and commercial sectors. In New South Wales we are working on the redevelopment of a regional art gallery on the far south coast, a renovation to an aging couples home in Elizabeth Bay, and public realm activations around Central Station. Alongside our commissioned projects, we also undertake self initiated research projects such as public art installations or exhibitions that feed into the larger narrative of our practice.”

As a practice we are passionate about how we can design environments that enable positive social interactions.

Ross: “I’ve been working in design studios in Melbourne and Sydney for many years, mainly focused on brand identity. I’ve always done a lot of freelance (mainly for friends who work in creative fields) outside of my day job, and it recently got to a point where the time felt right to set up my own practice, Primary Works. It’s still early days but it feels good to be in control of the agenda – currently I’m working on a campaign for an arts festival in Newcastle, an identity for an emerging architecture practice, and Qianyi and I are actually both working on the design and brand of the regional gallery on the South Coast together which is fun.”

Qianyi: “The design was submitted to council all the way back in 2014, so it’s been a long process! Since then we refined quite a lot, Ross also had a bit more input (as we’d only just gotten together when the design was first planned out). Xinyi is also involved in the project and may eventually live here one day, so many of the design decisions were made around her work as a chef, with the kitchen being quite large and a central feature of the house.

In Qianyi & Ross’s bathroom is a set of IN BED 100% organic cotton towels in khaki stripe.

In terms of milestones, things started to feel real the day they started removing the stable roof and stalls - leaving only the three course thick brick perimeter walls in place. It was the first time we could experience their full uninterrupted height. Another milestone would be the concrete pour, especially witnessing the cast “cloud” shapes in our courtyard become real! Another big day was the crane coming down our narrow street to erect the steel framing for the roof - this really started to define the full volume of the house.”

In terms of milestones, things started to feel real the day they started removing the stable roof and stalls.

Qianyi & Ross’s bed is dressed with IN BED 100% linen in khaki and lilac.

“Our bedroom is upstairs, it has a framed full height window looking out to the reserve next door. It feels like we are in the middle of the bush rather than in inner city Sydney.  Our favourite ‘thing’ in the room right now is probably our baby Linya! She hasn’t quite made the transition to her own room just yet. In her cot there is a very special patchwork quilt made by her grandmother thirty years ago.”

“We have many artworks and objects made by our friends, including a digitally generated tapestry work by Ry David Bradley and an abstract ceramic piece by Jia Jia Chen, both of which hang in the main living space. We often burn incense from our friends at Subtle Bodies, and we love our ceramic mushroom incense burners from Komfy, a local artist. We also drink a lot of tea and have several special teapots, including a set by Matteo Thun for Memphis, and a family heirloom pot of chinese porcelain that lives in an insulating woven cane basket.”

“Parenthood has been amazing and like nothing else. We feel so lucky to have Linya in our lives. She is almost a year old now and her cheeky personality is coming through. She was born at the beginning of the Delta lockdown, which was difficult in some ways, but also quite special in that we could really focus all of our attention on her.”

[For the rest of this year] Professionally, we’re both excited about seeing some really big projects through to completion, and growing our practices slowly but surely. Personally, we’re looking forward to finally getting overseas to see our family in Malaysia again, and Linya getting to meet her great-grandma! We’ll also be celebrating her first birthday at home soon and we’re excited to host more get-togethers here in Forest Lodge. It’s going to be a big year!”