- Design Team:Renato D’Ettorre Architects, Renato D’Ettorre, Belinda Brown, James Allen
- Structural Engineering:Northrop
- Landscape:Renato D’Ettorre Architects, Hortus Landscape Design
Text description provided by the architects. This house embodies the spirit of seaside living in response to a magical site on the ocean, and a steep rocky coastline with an ideal north-east aspect. Preferring a discreet scale to the street the nuanced design is sensitive to its location and neighbours, with a quiet focus and layered materiality providing mystery and privacy along with one of Sydney’s busiest coastlines. Our design sought an appropriate response with a form that connects directly with the bay, whilst maintaining view lines for the adjoining neighbour.
Externally, mass, depth, and abstract form contrast sharply to the natural surroundings. Sunlight accentuates the splayed walls, shadows, and deep recesses, contributing to a clear delineation of the form. Shadows are a deliberate result of the design intention casting deeply onto white walls rendering the house a carved solid aesthetic.
Internally, the various interconnected spaces, with alternating experiences of compression and expansion, create a sensory perception for the owners and their visitors. Feelings of safety and happiness are central to the design. The sensorial combinations of simple raw materials contribute to an ethereal and tranquil atmosphere.
At ground level, the view is strategically angled with walls and openings for privacy and discovery leading through a series of communal, private and cosy spaces. Flowing from the living space, a private courtyard with a built-in pizza oven is designed for outdoor living protected from southerly winds.
Bringing light and ventilation deep into the subterranean music room was a challenge. By excavating below the driveway and garage, metal grills angled in different directions, now capture the sun throughout the day, and animate the beauty of the sandstone rock face and allows the natural flow of water on rainy days. This creates a warm space that is private and introspective. Oversized sliding doors allow the clients to open the space up to the rock cavity’s cooling air.
The house needed to respect the client’s desires for simplicity and honesty of material without excess, simple forms with an evocative presence for such a popular and prominent location, with the underlying requirement for practicality and minimal upkeep. Beyond the usual family essentials, special requests were for a gym, music room and cellar.
The client was engaged in decision making and was onsite during the build. Working with a multi-skilled builder, who worked directly across many trades, meant the process was streamlined. The materials selected are robust and lean and celebrate the structure as the finish. The clients’ understood the impact every design move would make and faithfully stood behind each decision. This helped to keep the construction costs down.
For the house to engage fully with its coastal context, the contribution of the structural engineer made long spans achievable. Collaborating with a local brick maker made possible the custom-manufactured terracotta breeze blocks that met both the functional and aesthetic, providing a dynamic play of light to the interior, tempering views and weather, and letting the house breathe which contribute to the indispensable element of the house.
External materials were chosen for their inherent natural hues and qualities requiring minimum long term maintenance. With the passage of time, the natural materials will age gracefully, developing natural patina’s as natural materials do in nature when they are left to weather by the elements. Central to the design approach is the integration of gardens on walls, roofs, and courtyards, which absorb rainwater and create a thermal buffer. Underpinning the project’s sustainability principles are passive cooling and heating, evacuated solar tubes for hot water and under-floor heating, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, overhangs, double glazing, and mass construction.
The robust nature of the house ensures longevity and adaptability for future generations, employing structure as finish and energy efficiency overall is what we think contributes to real sustainability. This home thoughtfully engages the clients with the site at every step and elevates their daily lives.