From the top down

To maximise great views and natural light, the designer of this new house upended the floor plan the main living area is on the top level
Story by: Colleen Hawkes
Exterior view of the front entrance with large architecture, floor, interior design, real estate, gray, blue, white
Exterior view of the front entrance with large floor-to-ceiling front door, stairs with lighting, planters.

Just as big oak trees from small acorns grow, so can an initial idea for a renovation expand to become an entirely new house one that turns the original concept on its ear.

Architect Brian Meyerson of BMA says the owners of this new house had initially approached him to design an additional floor for their existing house.

"Such renovations are not always cost effective," he says. "This project would have put the bedrooms on the top floor, and would have compromised the overall layout."

To make the most of an expansive view back to the city, Meyerson suggested replacing the existing building with a new house that would have the main living area at the top rather than on the lower level.

"It's an unconventional concept, but there are many benefits," he says. "The views are maximised, and it is easier to introduce natural light into the top floor."

Meyerson says the inverted layout did pose challenges, however, including the need to provide easy access. This was helped by the steep slope of the site the street level entrance is just slightly lower than the top floor of the house.

"By introducing a sequence of short flights of stairs, it was possible to provide a terraced progression to the front door," he says. "The stairs are generously sized to ensure the entrance is open and inviting."


View of the kitchen area which features an architecture, countertop, house, interior design, kitchen, real estate, window, white, gray
View of the kitchen area which features an island with marble top, stainless steel perimeter countertops, white lacquered cabinetry, appliances, lighting.

Similarly, at 3m high, the front door has a large scale. It opens to reveal the open-plan living area and the spectacular view beyond, which draws guests up the final few stairs.

Meyerson says maximising the natural light was a priority. In addition to a large skylight above the main circulation area, which lets light into the stairwell, there is a band of glazing around the top of the walls that makes the roof appear to float.

"The house was designed to present an understated linear structure," says the architect. "Essentially, it is composed of a series of planes, with large, 12m spans designed to free up the view. It has a wide frontage to the harbour, and a large overhang to reduce heat load and glare. A terrace beneath this roof extends the living space, providing an extra outdoor dining and seating area."

Working with interior designer Shellee Gordoun of Shellee Gordoun Interiors, Meyerson introduced several large asymmetric volumes to the interior.

"The house is defined by asymmetry," the architect says. "From unevenly spaced fence posts at the front of the house, which are reminiscent of a barcode, to the shapes of the interior volumes, there is a sense of the unexpected and a strong focus on detailing."

A large unit helps screen the dining area from the entry.

"This volume was not designed to be a wall that separates," says Meyerson. "With its recessed toekicks, it is more of a floating element that doubles as a bar."

View of architectural drawings. architecture, design, diagram, drawing, elevation, floor plan, font, line, plan, product design, schematic, square, structure, text, white
View of architectural drawings.

A large Pietra Grey marble wall, which accommodates an extra-long gas fireplace, is another defining feature. The wall screens a neighbouring property, yet stops short of the ceiling to ensure the light and views of the tree canopy are not compromised. It also extends out through the glass wall onto the terrace, enhancing the visual connection between inside and out.

The Leicht kitchen presents another solid volume, in the form of a Calacatta marble island. This provides a casual dining area and additional work space.

Suspended soffits above the island, and the marble wall, feature halogen lighting, and help break up the expanse of ceiling.

The middle level of the house accommodates garaging and bedrooms, including the master suite, which opens onto a smaller terrace.

"This balcony is stepped back on all sides, so it takes second place to the main terrace," says Meyerson. "This also ensures it is a little more private, befitting its status."

The lower basement level was designed with entertaining in mind. A spacious second living area incorporating a home theatre opens directly onto a new pool.

"The original house did not have a strong connection to the pool," says the architect. "This design provides a completely seamless link."

Oct 05, 2009

Credit list

Interior designer
Shellee Gordoun, Shellee Gordoun Interiors
Builder
Steven Stathis Building
Kitchen designer
Robyn Harris,
Cladding
Rendered and painted brick
Paints and varnishes
Dulux
Blinds
Fybre Adel
Gas fireplace
Simplicity; set within Pietra Grey marble surround
Audiovisual and home automation supplier
Mainpower Electrics
Televisions
Pioneer; Sony
Kitchen cabinetry
Lacquered
Oven and cooktop
Gaggenau
Bathroom vanity basins
Zero from Rogerseller
Tub
Arte Domus
Bedroom rug
Cadry's Contemporary
Structural engineer
NB Consulting
Pool builder
T&B Pantazis
Kitchen manufacturer
Leicht Kitchens
Flooring
Basaltina stone from Alf De Marco; timber from Nash Timber
Wood veneers
Macassar by Eveneer
Lighting
Various including Inlite and Lunascape from Light Up Kingsford
Dining suite and coffee table
Custom designed by Shellee Gordoun Interiors
Home automation system
Dynalite
Speakers
Boston Acoustic
Benchtops and splashback
Stainless steel by Bob Morawski
Ventilation
Expella
Bathroom taps
Gessi
Walls
Basaltina; Calacatta marble
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