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A Multigenerational Family Retreat In A Blue Mountains Valley

Architecture

‘Stonelea’ appears similar to a Swiss chalet at first glance, but look closer and you’ll see qualities and materials reflective of its Blue Mountains context. 

The holiday house belongs to a multigenerational family who had already owned the site for several years. Seeking a home that would better embrace their love of the land, they engaged Matthew Woodward Architecture to design a new house, where an insular cottage once stood. 

The completed home showcases what Matthew now recognises as his practice’s calling: to connect people with nature.

17th May, 2021

‘Stonelea’ is a new house situated in a Blue Mountains valley. Photo – Brett Boardman

The clients requested a country retreat to suit multiple generations. Photo – Brett Boardman

The practical home is built on sound environmental principles to house a lifetime of new memories.  Photo – Brett Boardman

An existing cottage was chosen as the site for the new home. Photo – Brett Boardman

The home is a unified, elongated, low-lying pitched form that draws on the Australian shed vernacular. Artwork by Ngupulya Pumani. Photo – Brett Boardman

Materials include recycled hardwood timber shiplap wall cladding, metal sheets, and local stone. Photo – Brett Boardman

The design manages the balance between intimate country-living and the need to accomodate a large family,  Photo – Brett Boardman

Photo – Brett Boardman

Large sliding doors open living spaces out to the outdoors including a wraparound timber deck, paved stone terraces, and native gardens. Photo – Brett Boardman

The new house better reflects the clients’ love of the land and embracing the elements.  Photo – Brett Boardman

The heated swimming pool was inspired by the family’s travels to Iceland. Photo – Brett Boardman

This pool was at the top of the client’s brief. Photo – Brett Boardman

Despite the new house sitting in the exact same location as its predecessor, the clients say they never imagined the views to be so spectacular. Photo – Brett Boardman

Stunning views across the valley. Photo – Brett Boardman

The new house facilities the core objective for the clients, a place for the family to meet, share, and play. Photo – Brett Boardman

Appropriate design principles and sustainable technology mean a lifetime of activities can happen with minimal environmental impact and sound ecological consciousness. Photo – Brett Boardman

Amelia Barnes
Monday 17th May 2021

‘To sit in this room with the roof hovering above, listening to the sound of bird songs, while looking to the ridge-top mountain to the south is particularly memorable.’ – Matthew Woodward

The creation of ‘Stonelea’ by Matthew Woodward Architecture started with a photo of three generations: grandparents, their five children, and a ‘swarm’ of grandchildren in tow.

‘It is a special place where the children (big and small) swim in the river, lunch on log benches, ride horses, grow veggies and pick fruit from the many fruit trees,’ is how the architects describe the site. 

This project was to be a country retreat for them all – a new home to house a lifetime of past and future memories.

Having owned the Blue Mountains site for several years already, the owners had grown attached to the location of an existing cottage on site. The siting of this cottage was contrary to the common practice of finding the most attractive and pronounced position on the rural site, but was nothing Matthew Woodward’s expertise couldn’t overcome.

Aesthetically, the clients were interested in emulating one of the traditional barn style country houses they’d seen on Pinterest. ‘We liked the direction they were heading but thought we could make the home be more reflective of its place in the Blue Mountains, NSW,’ says principal architect Matthew Woodward. 

Drawing on the local shed vernacular instead, a single, pitched form was created, alongside a new pool.

The new house’s material palette is distinctly Australian, encompassing recycled hardwood timber shiplap wall cladding, metal sheets, and local stone. Pink granite from the former cottage’s chimney pillar was retained in a nod to the home’s past. 

The interiors contain various entertaining areas to congregate and engage with the beauty of the place, including a dining table suitable for a minimum 14 people. Matthew’s favourite space is the main living room with the fireplace on one side, and sliding doors that retract back behind walls on the other, creating an outdoor pavilion-like space.

Despite the new house sitting in the exact same location as its predecessor, the clients say they never could have imagined the views being so spectacular. 

‘To sit in this room with the roof hovering above, listening to the sound of bird songs, while looking to the ridge-top mountain to the south is particularly memorable and leaves a lasting impression following one’s visit,’ Matthew says. 

‘We really had a great team of contractors and consultants on this project who pulled together to collaborate on making something we all believed to be very special.’

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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