10th June, 2020.
This simple timber home by Clare Cousins Architects (CCA) could be in rural Victoria. However, it’s located in a cul-de-sac in Blackburn, a stone’s throw from Gardiners Creek. With only a handful of homes in the dirt court, and surrounded by established eucalypts, the quarter-acre site feels considerably larger. “Originally there was a rudimentary 1940s weatherboard on the site, anchored by a few stilts as the land falls away,” says architect Clare Cousins.
The owners, a couple with two young children, didn’t want a ‘McMansion’ in this idyllic setting. With one working in the energy sector and the other in construction, the brief to Cousins and her team was for a simple timber home that responded to this bush setting. The result is a modest 20-square home that feels considerably larger when placed in this context, with virtually every room enjoying the rustic setting (the garden was designed by Eckersley Garden Architecture).
From the street, the silvertop ash-clad house appears two-storey however, apart from the first floor mezzanine-style living area/study, the house is single level. The cascading timber stairs, both indoors and out, together with the angular blackbutt-lined ceiling are a continual reminder of the fall of the land. This fall, changing a few metres from the west to the east, is further accentuated by the placement of the garage and workshop at the front of the property with a sight line towards an established liquid amber at the rear of the property. “We wanted to create a sense of compression as well as drawing your eye towards this tree,” says Cousins.
The floorplan of the house is essentially one room wide, with the kitchen and living areas at the front and the three bedrooms, including the main, located towards the rear. So rather than having a long corridor buried into the core, the main passage follows the line and gradations of the exterior verandah to the north. The change in level also allows for the various steps along the way to double as seating.
Top | Ground Floor Plan
Bottom | First Floor Plan
And as with many weekenders, there’s a lack of formality to Clare Cousins Architects’ design. “As with many holiday retreats, you literally walk straight into the kitchen. There’s no formal lobby,” says Cousins, who was more conscious of the surrounding landscape, with distant views of the Gardiners Creek embankment. Large doors and picture windows, for example, have been carefully articulated in each area, with a cut out window in the kitchen taking on the effect of a framed painting. “Our clients were also keen to engage with the western light,” says Cousins, pointing out a large corner window in the living area adjacent to the open brick fireplace.
Here, each space is designed to be used rather than be set aside for special occasions. There’s a room in the centre of the Long House that’s used for guests, complete with a wrap-around curtain for privacy. This area is framed by built-in joinery that holds games and activities and is also used as a craft room. Likewise, the mezzanine-style living area/study at the highest point of the property is used as both a living area and study nook by the entire family. And to ensure cross-ventilation and allow for greater transparency, French wire was used to create a safety wall.
As the owners’ brief included sustainable features, the design incorporates an electric charging station for the cars and solar panels on the steel roof of the house. Having the floorplan only one room wide also enables for strong cross-ventilation through the large sliding glass doors and generous windows. Windows have also been located in the stairwell to ensure both ventilation and views to the leafy surrounds. “We’ve ‘curated’ all the windows and doors to frame the landscape. When you’re inside, you can’t see any neighbouring homes. You literally feel like you’re in the bush. And only a few minutes away is the entry to the Maroondah Highway,” adds Cousins.
Clare Cousins Architects can be contacted on 03 9329 2888
Words by Stephen Crafti.
Images by Tess Kelly.