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Position of strength

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A dramatic and solid facade conceals a home that, on the inside, is open, light, airy and designed for entertaining

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Before putting pencil to paper, an architect will consider the style of homes in a proposed neighbourhood, as well as the needs and wishes of the homeowner. Both factors heavily influence the design.

The townhouse featured is a case in point. It is part of a street where the styles range from large, 1940s homes with pitched roofs, to more contemporary single-level 1960s dwellings. This particularsite is at the end of the street, where the houses interface with shops.

Because of its positioning, design director Broderick Ely of BE Architecture saw an opportunity for a building that had stronger design elements than other homes in the street.

"We visualised the house as an exclamation point at the end of the street. If it had looked softer, the shops would have dominated and overshadowed it. Instead, we have a strong, bold building," he says.

This house is one of two apartments replacing an old duplex that was built on an underground car park. The front townhouse is elevated, so the second is barely visible from the street.

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"We planned the front townhouse to look as though its back wall faces the street, giving it a private and inward appearance," says Ely.

The house is slightly elevated, so it creates a strong, commanding vantage point. It sits slightly back from the road and wide timber steps lead up through a dry landscaped garden, adding interest to the sheer front face. This is rendered, with slatted timber screens and a large timber gate obscuring the front door and upstairs windows from street view.

From inside the front entrance, guests can see the lap pool on one side. A short flight of stairs leads down to an open-plan living area that extends the length of the ground floor, before flowing seamlessly out to a courtyard at the rear of the property.

The pool is slightly elevated and wraps along the side of the house, level with the living room, which has full-height windows right along this wall.

"The home has been designed around the owners' love of entertaining, so we ensured the living spaces made a strong impact. This was partly achieved with a simple, limited palette of colours and materials. Limestone and glass, plus timber introduced to add a touch of warmth, create a consistent look throughout. The same materials also feature in the courtyard and pool, making the living space feel even larger," Ely says.

Every detail, including joinery, has been simplified. The kitchen, for example, has limestone-topped units containing kitchen drawers, which extend past the dining table and into the living area. These provide storage for the stereo, television and audio equipment.

To maintain the linearity of the design, a 7m-long limestone bench on the patio contains a built-in barbeque and a self-draining ice bucket for cooling champagne.

"Repeating materials creates a strong sense of continuity – an important aspect of this design rationale," says the designer.

"It ensures the living room feels as spacious as possible and provides the warm and palatial atmosphere the owners wanted," he says.

Above the kitchen, a bulkhead reduces the ceiling height and conceals kitchen ventilation and air conditioning ducts.

"Varying the ceiling heights is important in a large, open space such as this. It helps define the utilitarian areas and creates a sense of a progression through the space," the designer says.

Limestone cladding on the face of the fireplace wraps up to windows on either side, making the fire feel an integral part of the room. The double-sided fireplace can be enjoyed in the living area and patio.

Because the townhouse is compact in size, as little space as possible was allocated to hallways. A laundry and guest powder room are accessed through the pantry in one corner of the kitchen.

Upstairs are a large master suite and two small bedrooms that share a bathroom. These spaces all open off a wide hall that doubles as a gallery.

At the end of this, a 2m-wide door pivots open to reveal the master bedroom – the main focus of this level. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a large north-facing deck ensure it is light and airy.

"To overcome council guidelines on the size and position of upper-level windows, a 2m-wide balcony with a white glass balustrade encircles the whole floor. The balcony and balustrade effectively block sightlines between this and neighbouring houses, allowing the bedroom to have full-height windows. These ensure the room is light and spacious and needs no blinds for privacy," says Ely.

First published date: 03 May 2005

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Credit List

Architect BE Architecture (
Melbourne); design team Jonathon Boucher and Broderick Ely
Interior and kitchen design BE Architecture
Builder Pritchard
Window and door joinery Capral 300 Series, anodised dark Commercial Bronze
Window and door hardware Parisi; Lockwood
Roof Stramit Speeddeck Ultra
Flooring Spanish limestone from Werribee Tiles
Paint Dulux
Lighting Masson
Heating Jetmaster fireplace; ducted heating by Ulazio
Pool and spa Designed by BE Architecture
Kitchen manufacturer Interstyle Kitchens
Kitchen cabinetry Emporite finish
Benchtops Spanish limestone
Splashback Pilkington antique bronze
Ventilation Vent Axia from HPM
Refrigerator Maytag
Cooktop, oven, dishwasher Smeg
Bathroom vanity Interstyle Kitchens
Bathroom cabinetry Laminex finish
Shower fittings, taps Logic from Rogers Seller and Myhill
Basin Aquagrande from Parisi
Bath Bette Form from Rogers Seller and Myhill
Hot water system Rinnai Infinity 20