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Choosing materials suggested by this home's scenery helps to create an interior that sits in harmony with its environment

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Designing a new home that takes advantage of its environment and empathises with its surroundings means selecting both interior and exterior materials that complement the scenery. This riverfront home makes a strong architectural statement throughout by using stone, cement and ceramic surfaces in pragmatic and aesthetically pleasing ways.

Rather than give architect Helen De Luis, a strict design brief, the owners requested a solid house, laid out simply, with plenty of formal and informal entertainment areas. They wanted an urban house with a refined edge, says De Luis.

"To create a connection between the separate spaces, I used clean lines and a limited palette of materials throughout," she says.

The use of concrete block and masonry resulted in a very sculptural look. This home steps down a staggered site with a street level lobby offering elevator and staircase access to the upper and lower stories. It also provides direct access to a large, commonly used rumpus room.

"The room provides a casual entertainment area and a place where children can congregate during formal gatherings".

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"For this reason surfaces had to withstand a lot of wear," says De Luis. "I've used masonry here, which also reflects the views. Boulders and pebbles flank the riverbank scenery, and the materials chosen mirror their tone and texture," says De Luis.

This room features ceramic floor tiles, which look and feel like natural stone. While they are almost indistinguishable from the marble floors in the lobby, kitchen and formal areas, they are more resilient to marks, making them better suited to high traffic areas.

The benchtop of the bar is CaesarStone, non-porous and stain resistant. Behind the bar, reflective, copper-coloured, mosaic tiles create depth and visual texture.

Colour can work as an obvious dividing motif within contemporary, open-plan interiors. However, quieter hues provide an equally effective, more subtle demarcation, the architect says, particularly when reinforced by the lay of furniture. This includes a baby grand piano, which creates a division between the dining room and the formal entertaining area.

Beyond these joining areas is a media room, cellar and a casual family lounge. Because these spaces have no exterior walls, light has been introduced via conical skylights. These curves match the spiral staircase and re-occurring architectural curves.

Acting as a neutral backdrop to the furnishings, the walls and ceilings throughout the house are one tone.

"Marrying the walls with the relatively low ceilings via one colour causes light to bounce between the surfaces, deceiving the eye, and creating an illusion of additional space," says De Luis.

The bedrooms have a different ambience, a warm, cosy feel. This is created in part by luxurious fabrics and linen, but also by timber floors. The use of hardwood not only contributes to the ambience, but also reduces allergy aggravating dust and mites. Polyurethane with a high-gloss finish creates a reflective flooring surface that helps to add height to the space.

Floor-to-ceiling glazing is secured with black, powder-coated aluminium joinery, which appears to vanish at night and allows for unobstructed views.

A feature of the home is the heated indoor pool and its sparkling ceiling reminiscent of a star lit sky. This effect is created using fibre-optic cabling. By installing a simple colour wheel at the light source, the lights can change colour and a dazzling effect is created.

The pool is lined with a lighter green tile than the deep green of the ceiling. A tiled border mirrors the mosaic tiles introduced in the rumpus room.

"I haven't used a lot of colours in this house. The form of the building provides enough visual interest without cluttering it with colour.

"The soft hues chosen help it blend in with the scenery and contribute to the overall free-flowing ambience of the home," says De Luis.

First published date: 24 May 2005

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Credit List

Architect Helen De Luis, of Karl Romandi & Helen De Luis Architects, (Sydney)
Main contractor Chris Natham, NCON
Kitchen designer Helen De Luis
Kitchen manufacturer Ross Mancuso
Window and door joinery Aluminium by Twin Windows
Cladding Boral concrete textured blocks
Roof Eternit slates
Paints Dulux
Pool designer Helen De Luis
Pool builder Chris Natham Pool tiles and
Bottecino marble Classic Tiles
Fibre optic cabling Optic Fibre Lighting
Cabinet finish Polyurethane
Benchtops CaesarStone
Splashback Coloured glass
Basin Parisi, semi recessed
Bathroom fittings Just Bathrooms
Elevator Homelift
Balustrades Premier Stainless Steel
Timber floors Rallis Timber
Skylights Skydome Industries Internal
Lighting Lighting Parameters
Blinds and curtains Craig Interiors
Air conditioning Delmar Air Conditioning