Beyond the city walls

Hidden away from the bustle of the city, this contemporary house comprises a series of linked pavilions interspersed with courtyards and walled gardens
Story by: Colleen Hawkes Photography by: Lin Ho and
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View of architectural plans.

Escape can take many forms, from a holiday at the beach to a hike in the hills. However, for a growing number of people, home is the real refuge from the pressures of the workday world.

This city house takes that idea to the extreme. Built within a large walled compound, the house presents a picturesque, tranquil haven with close links to the natural environment.

The house, part of a prestigious, low-density development, was extensively altered to suit the requirements of the first owner. ZLG Design was contracted to design the changes to the interior architecture and landscaping.

Architect Susanne Zeidler says the house has a contemporary architectural language, but the street frontage gives little indication of what lies beyond.

"The front doors open to reveal a lushly landscaped courtyard and pond on the right," says Zeidler. "This was originally open to the entry, but we have provided a fully glazed wall, so it is comfortable through all four seasons. The entry is now a glass box that leads to a glazed corridor that wraps right around the courtyard."

This passage also serves to link the series of pavilions that comprise the house.

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Exterior view of home with timber louvres, grassed area, landscaping, roofing.

The formal living pavilion is positioned on the opposite side of the landscaped courtyard and has views in two directions. This pavilion can be accessed via the glazed passage or via a wide bridge across the water feature in the courtyard, which forms the main entry.

"The formal living room is a dramatic, double volume space," says Zeidler. "We added a gallery along one side of the upper level to provide a walkway to the master suite, which is in a separate pavilion. This is now linked on both the ground and first floors."

Zeidler says the owners wanted the interior to make a strong design statement. Designer furniture, fixtures and fittings were chosen to reinforce the strong contemporary lines and a monochromatic dark grey and white palette.

"We chose to minimise colour, by keeping the interior architecture silent and neutral. Colour is invariably provided by flower arrangements and by the people who come into the house."

The architectural team has ensured there is plenty of natural light coming into the house. Glazed floor panels in the formal living room, and at the side of the terrace in the courtyard allow light to filter down to the remodelled basement rooms. The glazing has transformed the formerly dark basement into a light, bright living space, which now contains a gymnasium, Jacuzzi and live-in staff quarters.

The architects also added a new formal dining room above the kitchen. This room is defined on the exterior by its clean-lined cube shape. This contrasts the textural look of the timber louvre screens that encircle the upper floors of the rest of the house, providing shade and privacy to bedrooms on this level.

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View of living area featuring white sofas, tiled floors, glazing, rugs.

The kitchen has a clean-lined simplicity. Here again, a monochromatic palette enhances the sophisticated look. White lacquered cabinets are teamed with a black granite splashback and benchtops, and a black ceiling.

Like the formal living room, the kitchen opens to a large lawn area, with an alfresco dining terrace and adjacent water feature.

Zeidler says much of the day-to-day living takes place in the informal family room next to the swimming pool, in the second largest pavilion. This room features a double-sided fireplace, which separates a television area from a table designed for tea drinking.

"This is a much more intimate, private space for the family," says the architect. "The material palette in this room is quite muted and soft. The interior also complements the pool, which has a homogenous white finish, and is not unlike a large tub."

While family bedrooms are on the first floor, additional rooms and guest pavilions are provided on the ground floor. Landscaped courtyards in between these pavilions reinforce the close connection with nature.

Dec 15, 2010

Credit list

Interior architecture
ZLG Design
Kitchen designer
Alice Jiang, Spazio Italia Distribution
Window and door joinery and hardware
Weitzer Parkett
Spazio Italia Distribution
Audiovisual equipment
Shanghai Bo Jin Real-Estate Development Co
Kitchen manufacturer
Silent Gliss Window Treatment
Shongtai Lighting Shanghai Company
DC Design Beijing
Kitchen appliances
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