Natural selection

This contemporary home was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's renowned Fallingwater house. With its cantilevered planes and locally quarried granite walls, the house sits in perfect harmony with the landscape
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View of house with stone walls, walnut panelling and cabinetry, sliding glass walls, terrace, pool, outdoor fireplace and palm trees.

In days gone by, houses were invariably solid structures that readily met the need for shelter and permanence. Those key requirements are just as valid today, but there is also a demand for light, spacious interiors, glazed walls and a seamless flow between inside and out.

This new house, designed by Banham Architects, provides the best of both worlds the solidity of a natural granite structure, and the lightness that comes with floating horizontal planes, glazed walls and concealed frames and fixings.

Architect Gary Banham says the design was influenced by the owners' desire for simple lines, functional planning and environmental sustainability. It was also inspired by their passion for the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, most notably his Fallingwater house.

"Wright's house is widely acclaimed as a 20th-century masterpiece," he says. "The architecture is in perfect harmony with the setting. However, incorporating elements of this design into a suburban context was challenging."

Banham says the house, which sits on a high hill near the beach, replaces the original 1970s house that stood on the site. Existing stone-walled terraces, under-croft garaging and reinforced concrete slabs were retained to form part of the new house. These elements determined the floor levels and the design of the living spaces above.


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View of house with stone walls, walnut panelling and cabinetry, sliding glass walls, terrace, pool, outdoor fireplace and palm trees.

A north-facing L-shaped floor plan allows winter sun to penetrate a pool terrace on the first level, and protects the partially cantilevered terrace from the prevailing southwesterly winds.

"The floating, low-slung horizontal planes are anchored by blade walls of locally quarried Toodyay book-leaf granite," says Gary Banham. "In summer, the intense sunlight creates sharp shadows and intensifies the warm, earthy colours of the stone."

To further connect the house with the landscape, the pool has an infinity edge, so the reflective surface of the water appears to merge with the blue ocean horizon.

Similarly, the line between inside and outside is blurred, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and the use of the same materials throughout. A central stair beneath a high skylight is suspended from a solid stone core that extends through all three levels, visually linking the floors. Granite also features on the sides of the house and in the living area.

"The stone walls and sleek tiled floors were designed to create a proportioned geometry," says Steeg Banham. "The horizontal lines of the roof overhangs are in subtle juxtaposition to the vertical cores."

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View of house with stone walls, walnut panelling and cabinetry, sliding glass walls, terrace, pool, outdoor fireplace and palm trees.

The streamlined, contemporary look is reinforced by the glazing, which incorporates concealed frames and tracks to provide a seamless flow between inside and out.

Contrasting textures create further visual interest, while retaining the natural material palette. American black walnut panelling and cabinets feature in the family living areas, with the horizontal woodgrain and cantilevered elements enhancing the architectural geometry.

The kitchen continues the uncluttered lines that are found in the rest of the house. American black walnut cabinetry has been paired with glass sliding doors and white CaesarStone benchtops.

The space was designed to look less like a kitchen and more like a modern cafe or restaurant wherever possible, appliances are integrated. The kitchen also has a distinctive Italian flair, which reflects the heritage of the owners. As well as being very simple, it is slightly industrial, with a mix of stainless steel and white CaesarStone on the island.

The owners say that at 7.5m long, the island is very much a social hub where everyone gathers to enjoy good food and conversation. The length of the island doesn't compromise the functionality of the kitchen, however. The work triangle, on one side, puts everything in easy reach, and ensures the owners can enjoy the view while preparing meals.

Oct 16, 2010
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