Built on a series of limestone shelves that have formed over many centuries, this house on the Bellarine Peninsula sits quietly amongst the ti-trees. Designed by Robson Rak Architecture + Interiors, this weekender is becoming more of a permanent home as the owners scale back. “Our clients would normally spend four days each week here, with their children and grandchildren regularly joining them,” says architect Kathryn Robson, who worked closely with her life and business partner interior designer Chris Rak.
The owners came to Robson Rak for a number of reasons, including seeing several of their homes made from rammed earth. “I think we’ve completed at least six rammed earth homes. The walls are solid, there’s a sense of warmth and texture and rammed earth walls have great thermal mass,” says Rak, who also appreciates the organic quality that comes from using this material.
Layer House by Robson Rak pays homage to a curated palette of materials with rammed earth featured throughout.
Located on a double block, sloping two metres from the street, the Layer House, as it’s now referred to, appears single storey. The façade, with its timber-lined soffit and rammed earth entry walls, appears relatively quiet amongst the native vegetation. “Our brief was for a house didn’t ‘scream for attention’, one that only fully revealed itself past the front door,” says Robson, who included highlight windows in the front portion of the house to ensure privacy from the street.
Layer House features rammed earth walls and a timber clad soffit that render it quietly synonymous within the surrounding native vegetation of the Bellarine Peninsula.
Although this home appears relatively simple from the street, once past the threshold the floor plan centres on a number of courtyards. There’s a front courtyard framing the main bedroom wing, with its ensuite bathroom and study nook. There are also two separate courtyards on either side of the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas, accessed via generous sliding glass doors. And to the rear, there’s the two-storey children’s wing, also with its own private enclave. “The idea was to create a number of zones that would allow our clients to go there on their own, or with family and friends joining them,” says Robson, who was also mindful of setting up paths of cross-ventilation through the home.
The floorpan at Layer House centres around a number of courtyards each with their own aspect.
Although a number of the spaces are open plan, Robson Rak loosely delineated these areas by the use of materials. Stained American oak, for example, features in the joinery in the main living area, while there’s a dramatic rammed earth feature wall expressed in the two-storey children’s wing, linked by a circular steel staircase. A pale timber veneer also features in the kitchen joinery, with a grain that loosely resembles layers of rammed earth. One of the materials used in the home that took considerable time and effort to source was the vibrant green ceramic tiles used for the kitchen’s island bench. These tiles were found in Italy. “They remind us of the old bench tops you’d find in butchers’ shops,” says Rak, who was also impressed by the durability of the tiles. “They’ll easily take a ‘pounding’,” he adds.
Timber veneer in the kitchen loosely resembles the layers evident in the rammed earth walls and is complemented by vibrant green ceramic tiles on the island bench top.
The other idea Robson Rak was keen to explore was to maximise the use of the courtyards, in particular the northern terrace linked to the living areas. Complete with its own bench and storage area, it’s the perfect environment for alfresco dining. In contrast, during the winter months, the focus is towards the built-in joinery, lined with books.
Throughout Layer House architect Robson Rak has heralded materials and a delineation of space that balances outdoor amenity with interior built-ins and joinery.
For Robson Rak, having a number of zones allowed for independent living, as well as each one having its own unique aspect. “When the entire family is here, there needs to be a sense of space rather than people feeling constrained in each other’s ‘pocket’,” says Robson, who included a games room on the lower level of the children’s wing in order to free up space for adults using the living area. However, irrespective of how this house is used, there are unimpeded vistas throughout the home, extending into the courtyard gardens and terrace. “That strong connection to the outdoors is paramount in the Australian psyche,” says Rak, who was as inspired by the surrounding native bush in the choice of materials and colour palette: from the silvery barks of the ti-trees to the rich dense foliage surrounding them.
Robson Rak Architecture + Interior Design can be contacted on 9079 1860.
Words by Stephen Crafti
Images by Shannon McGrath