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An LA-Inspired ‘Floating’ Home In The Byron Hinterland

Architecture

Believe it or not, the site of this spectacular Coolamon House used to be home to a pig and banana farm. On this tricky and degraded site, that held an unsalvageable house among the animals pens, DFJ Architects got to work bringing the new owners’ dream home to life.

Mutual appreciation between the client and architects for mid-century architecture became the basis for the final design, with Fig Landscapes brought on board to heal the steep 20-acre block. The result is a sturdy house made from natural materials that simultaneously opens to its views, and sinks into them.

31st May, 2021

Understandably, the central design concern was the view over the rolling Byron hinterland. The north-facing section of the house is all glass, encapsulating the main bedroom and open plan living, dining and sitting room. Heaven! Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The house is all on one level and cantilevered out over the escarpment edge to give the illusion of ‘floating’ above the landscape. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The kitchen faces east and looks out to an outdoor dining deck. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The walls are painted with Dulux Snowy Mountains (half).Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The external courtyard is the centre of the house with all other rooms wrapped around it in rectangular wings. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

Pops of colourful terrazzo and mossy shades of paint characterise the bathroom and laundry differently to the other spaces clad in raw materials. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

Laundry joinery painted in Dulux Spiralina. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The entry tunnel is made of concrete and concertinaed brass, with a pivot gate made by a local steel frabrictor from brass mesh as the front door.  Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The house is made from a palette of raw materials: local blackbutt, concrete, brass and glass. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

The pool takes up one whole side of the courtyard. From this angle, you can see the brass entry door. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

Fig Landscapes designed the internal courtyard and the surrounding garden, which will grow to be lush vegetation as the garden matures. Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

This house may be inspired by the LA Case Study Houses, but it has serious Palm Springs vibes! Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

Photo – Christopher Frederick Jones. Stylist – Aneka Sidoti.

Sasha Gattermayr
Monday 31st May 2021

‘The extensive use of glass allowed the living space to act almost as a private gallery for the ever-changing panoramic landscape beyond.’ – Dominic Finlay-Jones

Before it was an incredible floating house by DFJ Architects, this 20 acre site in the Byron hinterland was formerly a disused pig and banana farm. But now, not a skerrick of that former life remains!

With the incredible rolling views front and centre of the design conversation, the main part of the new house is centred on a cantilevered concrete plinth which tapers off at the edge, allowing the elegant structure to ‘float’ over the landscape.

The finished project is shaped like a square doughnut, with all four perpendicular sections wrapped around a central courtyard. Visitors are guided through a concrete tunnel to a large gate at the entrance, made from brass mesh by local steel fabricator, Neil Mathie (Neil is also responsible for the intricately concertinaed brass cladding on the wall beside the gate!).

Through this gate lies the courtyard, at the heart of the house. Each wing of the residence encircles the courtyard. Immediately adjacent to the entrance is the main bedroom and ensuite, which sits at the northwest corner of the house. Next to it lies the living, dining and sitting room, which all offer views of the landscape through the north-facing floor-to-ceiling windows. The kitchen and adjoining outdoor area lie to the east with two additional bedrooms tucked behind.

‘The clients wanted a house that primarily functioned as a house for two,’ explains director, Dominic Finlay-Jones. As a result, the low-maintenance house sits all on one level, and the final layout includes three bedrooms plus a study, but the main suite is the only one incorporated into the main house. The guest suites are housed in their own wing beside the pool, and can be independently ‘activated as needed’.

With glass stretching the length of the northern side of the house, a limited palette of raw materials were selected to complement the vast natural views. Local blackbutt, brass and concrete form the rest of the minimal scheme, with pops of colourful terrazzo punctuating the surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom. These materials will patina over time and allow the house to settle into the landscape.

Considerate integration of green areas will also encourage the architectural design to sink subtly into its surrounds. ‘As well as extensive landscaping, large-scale bush regeneration was undertaken as part of the project, to repair the degraded land, healing the view back towards the escarpment where the house will eventually nestle amongst a canopy of vegetation,’ says Dominic. This landscape work was undertaken by Fig Landscapes.

In a few years, the materials will have weathered, the garden will have ground up around the house, and the glass will deflect the natural scenery back to a viewer’s eye. It will be like the house has always been there, or was never there at all.

The Coolamon House is shortlisted in the 2021 Houses Awards. See more projects from DFJ Architects here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net