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This waterfront house is designed around a central axis that allows a tantalising glimpse of the view beyond

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It is often said that the three most important factors to look for when buying property are location – first, second and third. For the owners of this new waterfront house there were ticks in all the boxes. As well as sitting right on Sydney Harbour, the property is next to an historic homestead with picturesque grounds.

Bruce Stafford, of Bruce Stafford Architects says the clients were inspired by a trip to the renowned Safari Lodge Singita and wanted a home that would also reflect their personality and aspirations.

The site wasn't without its challenges, however, being long and narrow, with the harbour views at one end. Project architect Bevan Boss says to maximise this outlook, the house needed to be designed to provide a line of sight all the way through the interior to the water beyond. Effectively, the views were borrowed by creating a transparency within the house.

To achieve this, the architects designed the house around a central axis, which runs from the front gate, through the house to the terrace and pool at the rear.

"We wanted people to be able to connect with the view from the moment they arrived off the street," says Boss. "They traverse down through a series of courtyards and interior spaces to finish at the infinity pool that appears to merge seamlessly with the harbour."

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Boss says a variety of volumetric spaces are positioned off this central axis, including a formal living room and a north-facing inner courtyard that overlooks the park-like grounds of the historic property next door.

"The glazed walls of the formal living room capture diagonal views through to the trees. They also allow a view across the inner courtyard and through the family living area to the harbour. This is made possible by the higher level of the formal living area and the elevated ceiling of the family room."

To maximise the expansive view and the outdoor living experience, the entire family living area opens up to a large covered terrace.

"Because this end of the house faces west, sun screening was essential," says Boss. "We created a layered light filtering system. For the main living area there is a deep roof overhang as well as motorised aluminium shutters that can wrap around the entire terrace. Upstairs, external motorised cedar Venetians are provided, along with sheer and block-out curtains."

Working with interior designers Shellee Gordoun and Emma Buchan of Shellee Gordoun Interiors, the architects introduced a variety of natural, textural elements, including stone-clad blade walls.

"The dry-stacked stone wall at the doubleheight entry provides a strong vertical form. Another stone blade wall is positioned next to the lift and stairs, and runs from the basement up to the roof. A third stone wall is the focus of the living space."

Stone is also a feature of the flooring. The circulation areas incorporate extra-large Italian limestone tiles. And a backlit onyx splashback is a dramatic accent in the kitchen. Other materials include dark-stained cedar and wenge Navlam veneer, both of which fit with the African resort theme.

"Rather than providing a contrived African style, we chose a more subtle interpretation," says Gordoun. "Throughout the interior, the layering of fabrics and textures creates a warm, inviting look. For example, the formal dining room features sisal flooring, three different peach-toned fabrics on the chairs, and a dark neutral fabric and cedar trim on the acoustic panels that form a side wall."

The resort feel continues in the master suite on the top floor. One corner of this space opens to the master bathroom, which can be screened by sliding cedar shutters.

First published date: 25 March 2010

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Credit List

Lighting Special Lights
Heating system Daikin VRV from Refrigeration Consulting Services
Windows and doors Crystalwall; Nicco Joinery
Shutters Just Shutters & Blinds
Window and door hardware Madinoz
Blinds Blind and Drape Store
Audiovisual equipment and home automation Munich Electronics; Vesh Electrical Services
Kitchen cabinets Navlam wenge veneer
Benchtops CaesarStone Linen from FGA Marble & Granite
Splashback Onyx from FGA Marble & Granite
Sink Oliveri
Taps Gessi
Oven and cooktop Miele
Refrigerator Liebherr
Bath tub Reconstituted stone by Boyd Alternatives
Bath taps Paco Jaanson Love Me
Bathroom floor tiles arteDomus
Bead curtain in bedroom Kathmandu to Timbuktu
Architect Bevan Boss, Bruce Stafford, Anna Antoniades, Michelle Zhou, Bruce Stafford Architects RAIA (Sydney)
Interior designer Shellee Gordoun, Emma Buchan, Shellee Gordoun Interiors
Landscape designer Jane Grossberg
Builder Innovative Building Services
Structural engineer Geoff, Ninnes, Fong & Partners
Pool contractor Trisley's Hydraulic Services
Kitchen manufacturer Hammercraft
Cladding Eco Outdoor Alpine stone
Tiling Piemonte Franco limestone from FGA Granite & Marble
Acoustic wall panels Acoustica