For an architect, every home inevitably begins with a deep understanding of the owner’s lifestyle, for that’s the catalyst which drives the design. ‘Active, high powered and varied’ was how Rupert Spence from Sphere Design & Architecture interpreted his client’s lifestyle, so the home demanded extremely private areas as well as others that allowed expansive entertainment for both business and pleasure. The home also needed to relate to the mild climate and take advantage of the exquisite uninterrupted views while embracing the rural setting. Rupert says the homeowners were specific: nothing ostentatious, but rather a home that provided maximum quality of lifestyle and flexibility. This allowed for a structure with exquisite appointment, a very clear palette and uncluttered simplicity. Detail was achieved through the use of texture, volume and tactile experience.
Drive up the avenue of trees flanking the meadow-like plot and you arrive at the home parking in a plaza defined by natural stone walls, a trellis and an impressive collection of cycads. All this is centred on the sculptural, natural element of a paper bark tree. Rupert describes the transition into the home as being ‘across a still reflection pond which enhances that sense of calm and serenity. The water also provides that age-old sensation of a moat separating one from the turmoil of the outside world.’ Step through the oversized glass front door and experience the soaring double-volume entrance hall with its lightweight glass balustrade stair and bridge linking the main pavilion of the home, vertically. Here the lighting is expressed as an artwork, and the room is quiet; in other areas, the lighting is mostly indirect, and the planes of the rooms are used for expression.
For the architects, the main design concept was to create a series of pavilions radiating off the central circulation spine. Rupert says, ‘Each pavilion has a separate function and allows for great garden spaces and courtyards that form outdoor rooms and vistas. This also helps to scale the structure so that it relates to the landscape and meets the horizon. A glass roofed transparent circulation spine pulls light right through the home and provides a wonderful gallery for collected artworks. Off this spine the home reveals itself in a multitude of ways, opening onto rooms, courtyards and private gardens.’ Each room was considered individually, to ensure a feature view or framed courtyard vista, with large indigenous trees and cycads as focal points. Bathrooms open up onto the stone-framed courtyards for showering under the stars. Environmentally, the home was orientated to have snug north-facing decks and courtyards for chilly winter days and cool view-facing entertainment zones for large-scale summer entertaining. The 25m rim-flow pool is great for laps or for just soaking while appreciating the spectacular views. Being heated and fitted with an automated pool cover, it can be appreciated virtually all year round. Built-in gas heaters and considerate external lighting allow for long evenings and memorable sun downers. ‘Harvested rain water, electrical management systems, insulation and natural ventilation all play a part in greening the building,’ explains Rupert. ‘We used local stone and materials wherever possible, and soft, permeable surfaces with gravel and ground covers allowing the rainwater to soak into the soil.’
The clients’ love of animals resulted in a full ‘dog’ suite, complete with hot and cold dog shower, which doubles as a great place to clean a bicycle, the client being an avid cyclist. The plot had to accommodate the dogs, and careful use of paddock fencing and natural stone allowed for a safe environment in which they can run.
A significant aspect of the landscaping project was the creation of a duck pond surrounded by wetland grasses, which quickly attracted wild ducks and geese. The landscape is exclusively indigenous, resulting in a growing bird population, plus there are the advantages of low maintenance. Stone-filled gabions have been used as sculptural elements in the private courtyards. A furrow water feature connects a series of formal pools, circulating water between the main water fountain outside the lounge, and the pond.
The kitchen forms a central hub to the entertainment area, with pocket doors for separating it from, or linking it to, the drinks bar at will. A family casual lounge adjoins this area, where you can kick off your shoes and chat to the appointed chef. Here the appliances and layout allow for ample creativity, and there is also a full kitchen staff complement to provide facilities for large-scale catering. The two well-appointed guest suites are separate private pavilions, offering seclusion from the main home. Outside showers, spacious en suites, walk-in dressing rooms, coffee bars and study areas provide a home away from home for family, friends and business acquaintances. Upstairs are three en-suite bedrooms, all with private balconies, accessed via a private reading room and library space that also opens onto a private balcony perfectly positioned to catch the afternoon sun. The home gym is complete with private massage room, steam shower, open trusses and stack-away doors to provide maximum natural ventilation and pull the environment into the workout. Decks allow for complete outdoor stretching.
The architectural finishes are pared down where simplicity is the key but detail is the essence. The decking has a specific design patina, applied to give a more textured relationship in varied plank sizes while the plane remains stark. The balustrades are a combination of steel and timber, yet have a very linear form. The natural dry-packed stone walls are substantially proportioned, and timber sunscreens provide layering to the facade treatment. For all concerned, the result is a superbly livable and handsome home where every detail has been carefully considered and purposefully applied. It truly answers the starting point – satisfying a family who lives an active, high-powered and varied lifestyle.