Michael and Ann had lived in Perth and travelled to their ‘cold little holiday house’ in the Margaret River region for many years. That all changed when they purchased a block at Gnarabup in 2013, and called on their architect son Matt Delroy-Carr to design a new home. Today, their life is spent mostly here, a beachside area about 15 minutes from the Margaret River township, and next to Prevelly Park.
‘It gave us everything we wanted – wonderful views of the ocean, a short walk to the beach, a national park on one side and lots of north winter sun,’ say Michael and Ann. ‘Deciding to work with our son in the early stages of his architectural career could have been risky and fraught, however, ours was a most enjoyable experience.’
The couple wrote a broad design brief for Matt, which detailed how they wanted the house to relate to its environment and, loosely, what they wanted internally. ‘We didn’t want to be contained by our own limited design ideas, and gave Matt carte blanche’ Michael and Ann recall. ‘There were elements where discussion ensued, but Matt almost always had a convincing, substantiated case which we invariably agreed with! It was all very convivial, engaging and fun.’
The brief in question included taking advantage of the Northern sun, so the home would be warm, cosy and light in winter; whilst limiting East and West facing windows to minimise the worst of the summer heat; and no large ‘scars’ from cut and fill across the site. Instead, the design was to work with an eight-metre ‘fall’ from top to bottom; and the home was to harmonise with the garden design, which in turn was to blend comfortably with the adjacent national park.
The result is a series of ‘pods’ stepping down the block with multiple framed views, which provide different perspectives on the garden and beyond to the sea, surf breaks and coastal heath. Matt mixed black-stained timber, corten steel and cement plaster on the exterior to define different pods, then continued these materials inside, alongside a softer palette of white-washed marine ply and painted plasterboard. The result is a home that will meld more and more into its landscape of subtle bush tones, while providing a contemporary, light feel inside.
Matt points to Australian modernism as a reference for the interior, while Michael and Ann have given a definite nod to mid-century design and indigenous culture in the furniture and collections. ‘Our love of indigenous art began during Ann’s career as a museum curator, and her work with indigenous people and their histories. She gained a respect for the deeply rooted link between people, culture and place’ says Michael. And why mid-century? ‘It has an enduring quality, appealing for its clean lines and lightness. It complements, rather than overpowering or sitting uncomfortably with, the design of the house.’
That sense of ‘sitting with’ rather than overpowering an existing environment has been a consistent theme in the design of this modern, yet decidedly understated home. Matt says the exterior will age into its landscape over time, and it seems Michael and Ann plan to stay put to see that evolve. ‘While we wouldn’t hesitate to work with Matt again, I doubt we’ll be leaving here for many years!’ they say.