A Robust And Dramatic Family Home

We love to feature an architectural design where a site-specific challenge ends up becoming part of a design solution… but we haven’t seen anything quite like this before!

Chris Stanley, director of Splinter Society Architecture explains how the Cornerstone House in Northcote uses monumental slabs of basalt excavated on site, to shape this extraordinary house.

Miriam McGarry

The Cornerstone House by Splinter Society Architecture. Building by Imperial Builders, landscaping by Eckersley Garden Architecture and styling by Sweet Lim. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Welcome to the Cornerstone House. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

A combination of soft and hard, dark and light, heavy and soft. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

A sold gem! Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Letting the light into the living room. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Long vertical lines in repeated blackened steel.  Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Shadow play. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Blocks of quarried rocks from the site give mass and strength to the home. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

A bunker, cleverly filled with natural light. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

No stone unturned! Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Striking light through the elegant steel. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

A serene and simple bedroom. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Bathroom details. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Moody bathroom light. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

The pool adds a new ‘cornerstone’ to the home. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Miriam McGarry
19th of December 2019

Chris Stanley, director of Splinter Society Architecture explains that the client brief for this project was for a ‘large family home that was well zoned, robust, low maintenance, private, designed to impress when entertaining, and that would sit comfortably within the streetscape.’ The design was to be both robust and beautiful, and importantly needed to deal with a ‘problematic, rock littered soil condition.’

In addition to this broad suite of hopes and conditions for the home, Splinter Society had their own vision for creating a home that appeared simple, but really delivered in terms of function and detail. The ‘cornerstone’ of the home began with the placement of large-scale quarried rocks, which provided a grounding element for designing the home. Chris explains the aesthetic of ‘monumental, timeless character’ here is ‘reinforced against a rhythmic palate of slender blackened steel and timber elements.’

The home mixes hard and soft, and heaviness and lightness through the use of timber and stone. The property sits on an old lava flow belt that Chris explains are ‘infamous for revealing problematic basalt floaters during construction’, and this challenge informed much of his studio’s design response.

The architects used the geology of the site to their advantage – taking 6 tonne stone blocks from the excavation process as literal cornerstones in the home. Chris highlights ‘you enter the house between stacks of them and feel their weight…their mass and broken natural texture gives a sense of awe and intrigue.’ On the opposite end of the scale, one of the Splinter Society architects had also worked as a contemporary jeweller, and brought some of this experience to this project. Asha employed her expertise in working with stone and metal finishing and detailing in a large-scale architectural context. A true gem of a home!

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