Among The Scent Of Eucalyptus
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Among The Scent Of Eucalyptus

It’s what hasn’t changed on this site that makes this residence so exceptional

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Nov 8, 2023 10:17amGrey Clock 5 min

When talk turns to sustainability in residential construction, certain aspects spring to mind. Solar panels tend to feature heavily, as do rainwater tanks and heat pumps. In fact it’s often the things that are added onto a project that tend to garner the most attention.

But there’s another way of viewing sustainable design and construction which has more in common with the ‘touch the earth lightly’ approach to architecture than some might think.

As both an architect and builder, Clinton Cole understands how to find that sweet spot between elegant, functional residential design and efficient, waste-less building practices.

By the time he was invited to design this property at Palm Beach, he had already worked with the owners to design and build their family home on Sydney’s lower north shore. Nicknamed Iron Maiden, that house is defined by an open air corridor running through its heart, turning the house on a corner site back in on itself and keeping the inhabitants consistently connected to changing weather conditions while creating a variety of common living spaces and private sleeping quarters.

So when they had the opportunity to design and build a holiday home on this idyllic coastal site on the fringe of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, it was no surprise that connection to the natural world would be at its heart. Having trusted him to build their permanent family residence, the owners asked Cole to help them select the right block from a choice of three possible options.

“Someone had bought the land 20 or 30 years ago as a superannuation plan and divided the site into three parts and my clients bought the middle one, so it’s a greenfield site,” he says.

“This was the one with the most natural beauty.”

With five mature trees and a large sandstone boulder on site, it was never in doubt that this project would work with the landscape rather than attempting to bend it to the designer’s will.

Instead of excavating, Cole designed a single level house on stilts that would connect with the tree canopy as much as possible.

“Carving the house into the hill wasn’t an option – why excavate the very landscape we’re celebrating? So we decided to plant it in the ground on bored concrete piers,” he says.

“The idea was to have the house feel like a cubby house. With five trees on the site we had to get (the house) to a certain level to get to the canopy. Then we 3D scaled each tree and each leaf so we could carefully place the building and every tree would be safe.”

The digitised version of the trees, including a Port Jackson fig that was subject to a conservation order, formed part of the approval process with council and meant that when the house was complete, the residents could immediately enjoy the benefits of living in close proximity to mature trees.

The house itself is a simple design — “it took 10 minutes to design” says Cole — which is in keeping with the lifestyle the owners were hoping to capture. There’s not even space wasted on an internal corridor, so that a trip to the bathroom requires guests to momentarily step onto the deck before going back indoors. A spiral staircase is the only sculptural element to compete with the natural beauty of the site.

“It wasn’t about making a statement,” he says. “You don’t see it from the street so that was a low priority. It was designed so that you could walk around barefoot or have a shower at the back of the stairs after walking back from the beach.”

Materials are simple but have nonetheless been chosen with care. The framework consists of kiln dried Australian blackbutt and steel flitch beams with spotted gum lining the internal walls. The ceiling and roof are made up of lightweight galvanised iron sheeting while the outdoor flooring is fibre reinforced plastic (FRP). Cole says all materials, including the FRP, have been chosen for longevity.

“FRP is used on oil rigs and marine environments because it’s bulletproof,” he says. “That’s one of the higher embodied energy materials we used here but compared with timber decking, this comes out way ahead. It lasts about four times as long as timber.”

Heavy netting has also been used as an unconventional flooring/ seating option as well as ‘screening’ to add to the sense of living amongst the trees.

“The netting kept the terrace area really light,” says Cole. “I got the idea when I was at indoor cricket sitting behind the net. After a couple of minutes the netting disappears visually.”

In keeping with its summertime vibes, the outdoor areas are almost the same size as the indoor spaces, with large, timber framed sliding doors retracting to maximise the living area. Meant for hosting visiting family, the house has a holiday feel with built-in double bunk beds in the secondary bedroom ideal for sleepovers.

Keeping in mind the amount of waste typically generated on building sites, Cole designed the house ‘like a Meccano set’.

“Because of the distance in terms of travel time from the (inner city) office and I am usually on site once or twice a week, I designed it to be built without supervision, like a Meccano set, shaping bits
of timber, cutting to length and drilling the holes and putting bits into holes,” he says.

It was just as well, given the lockdown periods Sydney — and the Northern Beaches — went through when the house was being built. As a result, he only visited the site twice in the six months it took to build.

“Normally you wouldn’t be able to build a basement in that time if you were dealing with excavation,”

Cole says. “It was appropriate for the site, as well as the budget.”

Relying on passive design principles such as cross ventilation and the thermal chimney effect where rising hot air is released from the house via strategically placed louvred vents, the only obvious concessions to conventional cooling methods are ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms.

Because the trees have been retained, solar panels were not considered suitable for this house — ‘it’s too overshadowed’ — so its sustainable credentials are not obvious.

“It’s not the most prevalent sustainability project,” says Cole. “There are no solar panels or heat pumps, it has none of those things.

“But half the carbon in a building is not in the life cycle of the building, it’s in the resources that go into building it. We worked on the embodied energy being as low as possible. It’s something we’re doing more and more.”

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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A 600-Year-Old Medieval Villa Overlooking Florence Lists for €12 Million

The four-storey, lemon-hued villa boasts more than 16,000 square feet of living space and historic character and charm by the bucket load

By LIZ LUCKING
Wed, May 29, 2024 2 min

A 14th-century villa in the hills overlooking Florence, Italy, has hit the market for €12 million (US$13 million).

Surrounded by cypress trees, vineyards and olive groves, the quintessential Tuscan home was built for the Davanzati family—who were powerful bankers, merchants and patrons during the Italian Renaissance who have a museum named after them in the heart of the city. The villa was one of the family’s multiple country retreats, according to Lionard Luxury Real Estate, which brought the home to the market earlier this month.

Courtesy of Lionard

The four-storey, lemon-hued villa boasts more than 16,000 square feet of living space and historic character and charm by the bucket load.

The ballroom has a giant skylight.
Courtesy of Lionard

On the ground floor there are ​​a number of reception rooms and open-air living areas, with many of them boasting antique paintings, tapestries and stately fireplaces made of marble or carved stone.

The most “magnificent” room, according to Lionard, is the winter garden hall, a ballroom with stuccos, loggias and towering vaulted ceilings, illuminated by an Art Nouveau skylight.

Courtesy of Lionard

On the first floor are multiple double bedrooms and an antique library, and the second floor, while in need of renovation, offers the possibility of creating up to 12 en-suite bedrooms. The villa’s tower has a “delightful sitting room and a rooftop terrace offering a breathtaking view of the city of Florence,” the listing said.

The villa has ivy-covered loggias.
Courtesy of Lionard

The basement, meanwhile, has a cellar with brick vaults that are perfect for wine lovers. An elevator runs between the levels.

Outside, the grounds have well-kept gardens, rolling lawns, a fountain, ancient wells and ivy-covered loggias.

Mansion Global couldn’t determine who is selling the villa, or when they acquired it.

The property is “an oasis of peace,” the listing said, and “one of the most exclusive historical estates on the hills that surround the city of Florence.”

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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