View to the lake

This residence combines dramatic water views with a strong sculptural identity

Story by: Charles Moxham Photography by: Max MacKenzie
High angle shot of first floor. architecture, coffee table, daylighting, floor, flooring, furniture, glass, hardwood, house, interior design, product design, table, wood, gray
High angle shot of first floor.
This residence combines dramatic water views with a strong sculptural identity. Trends US Home Series editor Kathleen Kinney comments on a dramatic house designed by Robert Gurney.

Presented with a serene natural environment, an architect's response is often to design a house that melds quietly with the scenery. But there is another way. Strong, clean-lined built elements can stand out on the land celebrating nature's diversity through contrast.

Architect Robert Gurney designed this home as a rigorous, geometric form that responds to the views, variable weather and topography. The house also has a dramatic internal aesthetic.

The dwelling is largely defined by two L-shaped, white-painted brick walls angled in opposite directions one partially enclosing the main structure and the other helping shape the adjacent garage and services room, says Gurney.

"A large trapezoid atop the larger L-shaped wall constitutes the upper level of the home. This form is wrapped in standing-seam copper, making a burnished contrast to the white brick.

"The house is set on a lake promontory reached by a road that winds through woodlands. I designed and positioned the house in part to act as a visual threshold between the woods and the expansive lake views beyond."

On approaching from the drive, the largely windowless wall of brickwork obscures the full outlook. Arriving at the front door, there are views across the interior and out through a glazed wall to the water.

View of lounge area. architecture, floor, house, interior design, living room, real estate, table, gray
View of lounge area.

The distinctive shape of the house adds to the comfort of its interiors, with the trapezoid cantilevering over the southern, lake-facing living areas and master bedroom. The overhang screens the hot summer rays but welcomes the lower winter sun into the heart of the home.

The lower, north-facing side of the trapezoid has a smaller overhang, taking rainwater runoff clear of the structure. Its shape also deflects the predominating cool northerly winds.

Besides mitigating the impact of the weather, the house offers the ultimate viewing platform. Walls of glass on the mid-level living areas open to a cantilevered deck and the lake. On the upper floor, the soft mathematical shape is book-ended by a Mondrian-inspired window design that breaks up and frames the views.

"We didn't want the entire residence to look out through seamless glass. These fenestrations provide an attractive feature in their own right and allowed us to add operable windows and doors into the glazing without being obtrusive," says Gurney.

Further views are afforded from an upstairs study, where a break in the cladding creates tall windows that let in the scenery and the sky. Motorised rollers provide shade as required.

A close relationship to its surroundings is only half the enjoyment this house brings. The interior has its own sense of visual splendour.

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View of dark toned dining table.

"The first floor contains the master suite, kitchen-dining and living areas. The kitchen sits within a central volume where the ceiling rises to 7m," says the architect. "We had to eat into the upper floor to gain the extra height and chose the space in the middle to avoid robbing upstairs areas of precious end views."

The result is that the upstairs corridor, shaped by the folding trapezoid, alternately passes a yawning void and returns to an enclosed walkway.

Interior designer Therese Baron Gurney was asked to create interiors to complement the architecture and the lakeside environment.

"Rich cherry wood floors, white walls and a predominance of glass present a simple, natural interior palette that doesn't detract from the idyllic situation," she says. "In keeping with the linear flow of the house, I chose elongatedfurniture for the living area, which is covered with natural materials, such as suede.

"Scale was also crucial to the project I had to select pieces that wouldn't dominate or be overwhelmed by the space. For this reason, I chose a large, black dining table and black chairs to create a substantial mass that balances the volumes of light and space overhead."

The house juxtaposes clean lines against swaying trees and crisp, white brickwork with undulating grass. Its crowning glory, a rakish sweep of copper, provides a tonal connection to the colours of nature resplendent around it.

Oct 29, 2012

Credit list

views with a strong sculptural identity Architect
Robert M Gurney FAIA,
Kitchen designer
Robert M Gurney
Structural engineer
D Anthony Beale
Doors and windows
Fleetwood Windows & Doors; Weather Shield
Paints and varnishes
The Right Track
Kitchen, Blue Pearl granite; living-dining area island in Calacatta Gold White marble
Interior designer
Loudin Building Systems
Mangaris red bala;
Interior, Brazilian cherry; exterior, red balau and graphite slate
Bega, Lightolier, Delta Light
Kitchen cabinetry
White glass
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