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Contemporary, transparent house with aluminium and concrete sidings, connected garage and river views

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Modern riverside home with cantilevered upper level and open-plan interiors by architect Mark Peters of Studio Dwell

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The higher you go, the better the views. This simple premise can be enough for an architect to turn a house on its head, positioning the living areas upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs.

This large riverside home by architect Mark Peters of Studio Dwell offers a case in point. The owners requested a house that responded to its site, framing the outlooks of the natural grass terrain running down to the river, says Peters.

"To maximise the river setting, the traditional arrangement of public and private spaces was inverted. And to further optimise the outlooks, the upper level is largely transparent, meaningsomeone approaching the house can look right through the interior to the views beyond."

While the home's front and rear facades on the top floor are essentially walls of glass, a quite different treatment was required for the sides.

"There are neighbours in close proximity to left and right, so the side walls have narrow clerestory windows that admit natural light but retain privacy. The street side of the downstairs master wing has similar slot windows."

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From the curving approach road, the house has a strong sculptural presence that celebrates simple box-like forms. Seen from the rear, the upper level features an exposed, cantilevered terrace and roof. This is suspended over the lower level which is partially nestled into the hill, providing sun protection and a connection to the land. The design helps cool the house over summer and offers wind protection in winter.

"The cantilevered framework is also a visual feature," says Peters. "It runs up from the ground floor master wing, across the roof, then down and back across to form the base of the deck. From there, it turns upwards again, forming the deck's side balustrade. The result is a crisp, yet functional architectural flourish."

The exterior highlights a simple palette of sustainable and highly durable materials. The base of the house is in exposed concrete with the upper storey clad in long anodised aluminium panels, specified in a complementary charcoal tone. Both of these cladding treatments are accented at several points with îpe wood for balance and warmth.

A distinctive entry adds to the street appeal and further encourages an appreciation of the wider setting. To minimise the footprint on the land, the house and double garage are separated, but also connected by a suspended tube element that continues as a distinct form on the interior. This forms the internal, private entry from the garage to the interior and is the only enclosed space on the top floor. It includes a mud room and powder room in the external section.

Guests, on the other hand, enjoy a different arrival experience. They reach the house via an open walkway that runs alongside the tube. This pedestrian bridge suspends visitors over the landscaped hill, inviting them to take in the wider surroundings. These is also a view right though the interior to the river from the path to the large front doors. The walkway floor is in îpe, an exotic hardwood, as is the cladding on the internal access. And it is the choice of surfaces generally that helps ground the house in its natural setting.

Pivoting double front doors open to reveal a freestanding wall that arrests the immediate impact of the dramatic setting. Beyond this to the left, there is a glass balustrade and beyond that, a double height void with an exposed steel staircase.

"Part of the brief was to have plenty of wall space to hang the owners' substantial collection of artworks, and this void effectively doubles as an art gallery," says Peters. "A sculpture of a warrior and horse fixed high on the wall can be appreciated from both levels, as well as through the window from the pedestrian bridge."

The owners have many smaller art pieces, too, and elongated display niches were built into the white walls to accommodate these.

Looking to the right, the indoor section of the entryway houses a fireplace on the open side and a pantry, storage components and an oven wall on the far side, where the kitchen is located. This area cantilevers off the side of the home, optimising light and views for the chef.

Downstairs, the bunker-like master suite wing extends out from the other side of the home. There are also three large bedrooms and a shared bathroom at this level. This private floor is carpeted except for the double-height void, which has large format, sound-absorbent tiles.

Other finishes on the interior include stained walnut flooring, îpe, glass and steel.

"Openness and transparency are the home's predominant character traits," says Peters. "Even the grey steel staircase has open stairs so you can see right through it to the scenery."

First published date: 30 June 2015

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Credit List

Architect Mark Peters AIA, Studio Dwell Architects (Chicago, Il)
Design consultant Bernard Morauw
Engineers Louis Shell Structures
General contractor McLeod Builders
Renderers Studio Dwell Architects
Structural system Steel frame and cast-in-place concrete
Exterior finishes Pac Clad 12" interlocking panels; aluminum frame from Kawneer; custom-formed, cast-in-place concrete with clear-seal finish; sealed ipe for siding, bridge, front door and garage door
Balustrade Custom-designed tempered glass with mechanical glass attachment system
Landscaping Pavers from Stepstone Inc for exterior terrace and light court
Roofing Modified roof by Built-up Roofing
Windows Wood and aluminum from Kawneer
Skylights Velux
Doors Entry, custom Ipe and stainless steel; metal doors by Industrial Metal Finish Doors; custom fabricated interior wood doors and frames; sliding doors by Kawneer; speciality doors, insulated overhead with laminated ipe surface
Hardware locksets Omnia, Baldwin
Hinges Stanley
Cabinet hardware and pulls Hafele
Kitchen cabinetry and custom woodwork Gloss Smoke White XK; matt smoke EF finish, from Valcucine, solid surface countertops, from Silestone; custom stainless steel countertops
Paints and stains Benjamine Moore
Interior stairs Custom steel with stained open riser treads, tempered glass enclosure, custom steel railing and mechanical glass attachment system
Fireplace Custom cold rolled steel surround and flush hearth
Sculpture shelf Painted steel
Paneling Ipe
Flooring Stained plank hardwood flooring
Lighting Interior ambient lighting, Lightology; downlights, Juno; exterior, Bega
Lighting controls Lutron