Moving with the times

This couple’s dream home is an exciting example of how to take advantage of the latest in technology and design to accommodate the family’s lifestyle – and save the planet too. Perched high on a headland like a seabird’s nest, Jane and Peter’s house commands stunning views over Long Reef and the ocean off Sydney’s northern beaches.

They bought the property in 2006 and lived in the old home on the site with their three children for 18 months. “It had nothing left worth keeping,” Jane remarks, but they spent that time productively – planning the new one. Then they knocked the old one down to prepare the ground and begin the project, and this took another 18 months. Designed to make the most of the outlook and position, it employs an arrangement of mezzanines between the main floors so that it drops just a few steps at a time. “We built into the cliff face,” Jane explains, “so at street level, there’s a powder room and a garage, then you go down some stairs to the kitchen, living/dining area and deck – with a spa-pool – our bedroom and ensuite.” They organised it so that this floor is basically theirs and, when the kids brought friends round, they could live almost independently downstairs. Then, going down from the main living area and master bedroom – all looking out over the water – there's a laundry, storage area and a bathroom; and from there, it’s down again a few more steps to the study, three more bedrooms, another bathroom and, finally, the rumpus room. “To me, it’s only two levels,” she adds. Their son, Charlie, and daughters, Sally and Rosy, are young adults now. Indeed, Sally has left home and embarked on a career.

The architectural firm they consulted is called Castlepeake, which has its own building company. “So we picked the architect and they supplied builders as well,” Jane explains. “The emphasis was on construction that’s environmentally friendly, so we've got a lot of recycled timber – on the deck and the stairs, for instance.” The deck runs beside the main living area and the master bedroom, and the interior floors are polished concrete. Thanks to the environmental design, there’s no air conditioning apart from the coastal breezes, and the windows are angled to take advantage of them. “There’s always a breeze coming from somewhere,” she smiles. Furthermore, the only source of heating is one fireplace in the living area, which has a glass panel that can either be open to the room or closed for combustion. “We’ve been here 12 months now and we've never had an issue with the concrete floor being cold,” Jane reports, “so it obviously works for us. I just sweep it or mop it – it basically looks after itself.”

Such a dramatic setting required an understated backdrop, so the walls are plain white and most of the doors are black. “We did that so that we could swap bedding, towels, cushions etc, to change the look of the place without having to worry about repainting it,” Jane says. “You can see the effect of the bright colours in the rumpus room downstairs. That’s the children’s domain – or, if we've got people staying, it's another living area. It’s worked out really well,” she adds, “with a huge day bed where the cushions are – they really liven it up.” In the kitchen, the cabinets are black laminate to match the doors, but also to avoid anything too shiny – as the glare of the sun coming in can be quite blinding. There are laminate cupboards over the cooktop bench as well, and a window instead of a splashback, with a view out into a courtyard. The stainless-steel island bench is an interesting innovation. “It has no water or electrics in it,” Jane explains, “and it’s on rollers so we can move it right out if necessary and make the space bigger. We hardly ever do,” she laughs, “but we could!” The dining table is in the same practical vein. “The builder made that for us out of recycled timber, because I wanted it to look a bit ‘boaty’,” she declares, “and it’s on castors, so we can push it outside if we want to.”

Jane admits, however, that the experience of living in a new house is also totally ‘new’ to them, and they’ve had to get used to it. And, in this regard, what she likes most about it is that what she calls their own ‘character’ – the personal aura they instilled in their previous places – is still very much in evidence. “We have a fair few antique pieces but they’ve all fitted in quite well,” she observes, “and everything we brought from before, like the lounges and chairs that we’ve had for a long time, has slotted in nicely. We haven’t had to buy it all again just because the house is so modern.” One particular feature does stand out though. As well as the splashes of colour dotted about as focal points, the decor is very much enhanced by a subtle oriental flavour. Everywhere you look the eye is caught by something quite exotic that was acquired over the five years the family spent in Japan. From rows of traditional jars for holding rice wine to bed-cushions with ‘kanji’ on them and the superb lacquerware on show, it all contributes to the unique and stylish ambience. Not least among these, the painting in pride of place in the living area was a ‘sayonara’ gift from friends when they left, and now adds its own essence to the mood in this exciting interior. “Yes, we did bring a fair bit of stuff back from Japan,” she muses, surveying the effect with satisfaction, “and, as the house is so new, I feel the various pieces kind of complete it.”




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