This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

An Architect + Interior Designer’s Coastal Home, Grounded In Nature

Architecture

The lush natural environment of this family home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches served as the main inspiration in its transformative redesign.

Editor Interiors’ Bianca Martin and Architectsmith founder Richard Smith lived in the original house with their two children for seven years before embarking on a 20-month long rebuild.

The result is an unexpected beachside abode, enveloped in the trees tops of its sloping site, that strays from traditional coastal aesthetics.

1st December, 2022

Architectsmith founder and owner Richard Smith designed Chisholm House, alongside partner Bianca Martin who worked on the interiors. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

The rebuild was a five-year process from initial design through to council approval and construction! Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

After knocking down the existing home, they were able to build the new property into the sloped site. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘Although the floor plan is quite big, we wanted every space to be used, so the home only has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and I guess some people might think it’s missing some modern-day ‘must-haves’ like a butler’s pantry and media room!’ Bianca says. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘The most important thing for us was creating areas that connected us to the outside, which the previous house really lacked.’ Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

A striking concrete stair case leads to the lower level. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘We felt quite strongly that it be a timeless house, so the materials we kept coming back to are the ones Richard has long designed with – concrete, timber, brass and zinc.’ Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

The couple have renovated homes together in the past, but this was their first new home. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

Bianca says she set herself a ‘challenge’ to create a beachside home that was a bit unexpected, showing that coastal living ‘doesn’t have to mean all white’. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

The dining room makes the most of its incredible outlook. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

Australian hardwood timber lining covers the upper floor. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘The relationship between the bricks, timber and concrete of the lower levels is just so calming and it’s the best canvas,’ Bianca adds. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘The light changes so dramatically throughout the day and the seasons and the walls take on the most beautiful glow,’ Bianca adds. Photo – Pablo Veiga

Calming green vistas at every turn. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

‘I’m sure our builders will be happy to never work with timber lining again but the hard work was definitely worth it!’ Bianca notes. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

All the furniture was also kept quite muted and minimal, in order to hero the property’s surrounds. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

The new house manages to be both grounded in the garden and elevated like a tree house. Photo – Pablo Veiga. Editorial styling – Claire Driscoll Delmar

Christina Karras
Thursday 1st December 2022

There are a few clichés we’ve come to expect from the classic coastal Australian home. But when it came to redesigning their own dream home, Sydney interior designer Bianca Martin and architect Richard Smith wanted to create something ‘a little bit unexpected’.

The couple and their two kids, Xavier, 15, and Isla, 11, had lived in their elevated Avalon Beach property for seven years, before deciding to transform it from the ground up a few years ago.

‘We wanted to be sure that rebuilding was the right choice and understand the unique site fully before starting,’ Bianca says. Their vision was to feel grounded among the leafy trees of the 2600sq m block, rather than positioned atop it, which lead them to build their new home directly into the sloping landscape. Richard served as the project’s manager, client and architect, working closely with Alice Nichols Landscape Design to adapt and improve the design across the 20-month build.

‘The most important thing for us was creating areas that connected us to the outside, which the previous house really lacked,’ Bianca explains. ‘We really wanted every room to have a connection to nature, whether it was a view of water or bush or a deck or terrace to wander out onto.’

‘What we love most about the location is that although we live in a beach suburb, we essentially live in the bush, so the trees and the boulders definitely drove our material choices and the overall aesthetic for the house,’ she says. And one thing was clear: ‘it was never going to be a bright, white beachy home.’

These ideas are woven beautifully throughout Chisholm House’s lower floor, where a sleek combination of concrete and brick houses the kids’ bedrooms and a home office that opens out to a canopied west-facing terrace. Richard and Bianca approached upstairs as if it was a ‘covered verandah’, encasing the main living spaces, kitchen and master bedroom in Australian hardwood timber lining – covering everything from the floors and walls, to the ceilings and joinery.

‘Our dining room now feels part of the garden and when the doors slide back is completely open to the elements,’ Bianca adds. ‘We have friends who visit now who had no idea we had water glimpses!’

Now, in addition to their views of Avalon Beach in the east and Pittwater in the west, Chisholm House makes the most of its tree-top views at every turn, window and balcony.

This Week

Studio Visit

Local Artist Hannah Maskell Creates Mesmerising Grids Of Colour

The Melbourne-based artist's geometric drawings and wooden sculptures are a cross between 'colour theory and colour therapy'.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Boundless Garden Immersed In Native Bushland

A new coastal home on the Mornington Peninsula buried deep within a native grassy woodland, with stunning gardens by Plume Studio.

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Art

A Look Inside Abbey Rich's Mesmerising New Exhibition

See the Melbourne artist's beautifully bold abstract pieces at MARS Gallery, filled with playful patterns and hidden meanings.
Christina Karras

Architecture

An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

Steel beams elevate AB House by Office MI—JI to form an unconventional beach house in Barwon Heads.

Food

Julia's Crunchy Crumbed Fish With Cos Salad + Yoghurt Tartare

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's delicious take on a classic summer fish dinner – on high rotation for the rest of the season!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

This surprising garden in East Melbourne has its own lagoon pool, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.
Christina Karras

Climate

Everything You Need To Know About GreenPower (+ Why You Should Make The Switch)

The easiest way to invest in in Australia's renewable future - and it's simpler (and cheaper) than you think!

Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

Culture Cush are making velvet-covered modular lounges inspired by retro designs, with the best materials of today!
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Local Icons + TikTok Stars, Ginger And Carman

Get to know the fashionable, dynamic duo, whose fun-filled adventures (and inspiring approach to life) have made them Internet famous!
Christina Karras

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Homes

A Quirky Redfern Terrace With A Hidden Green Roof

The unconventional family home of designer Sacha Coles, split over 4 levels!

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Modern Court House For Yackandandah

Archier director Chris Gilbert returns to his hometown to design Court House, signifying a new era in Yackandandah's residential landscape.

Architecture

A Classic 1960s Australian Beach Cabin, Renovated With Soul

A sympathetic makeover of an original beach shack by Lian prioritises its special place in Anglesea, on Victoria's surf coast.

Architecture

A Tropical Sydney Tree House Assembled Like A Meccano Set

Perched in the treetops above Palm Beach, this home by CplusC Architectural Workshop delivers everything you'd want in a tree house.

This Week

Shopping

Shop The Chunky, Colourful Furniture You’ve Seen All Over The Internet

Meet the tradie brothers behind FEARON, who have been making quirky, must-have furniture that blends fun with functionality!
Christina Karras

Sustainable Homes

An Off-Grid, Modern Country Farmhouse In Regional Victoria

Step inside a newly built farmhouse that's fully off the grid, with all the classic features of an old country home.
Christina Karras

Architecture

A Brazilian-Inspired Update Of A 1920s Brisbane Cottage

Bowen by Shaun Lockyer Architects elevates a 1920s cottage with a stunning renovation and addition.

Creative People

The New Small Business Making Mid-Century-Inspired Furniture In Australia

Culture Cush are making velvet-covered modular lounges inspired by retro designs, with the best materials of today!
Christina Karras

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life With Local Icons + TikTok Stars, Ginger And Carman

Get to know the fashionable, dynamic duo, whose fun-filled adventures (and inspiring approach to life) have made them Internet famous!
Christina Karras

Architecture

An Unconventional Beach House Elevated On Steel

Steel beams elevate AB House by Office MI—JI to form an unconventional beach house in Barwon Heads.

Food

Julia's Crunchy Crumbed Fish With Cos Salad + Yoghurt Tartare

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's delicious take on a classic summer fish dinner – on high rotation for the rest of the season!
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Homes

An Owner-Designed Renovation Of A 1970s South Yarra Apartment

How designers Lola Digby-Diercks and Sebastian Owen completely transformed their South Yarra apartment in just six months.

Art

A Look Inside Abbey Rich's Mesmerising New Exhibition

See the Melbourne artist's beautifully bold abstract pieces at MARS Gallery, filled with playful patterns and hidden meanings.
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Local Artist Hannah Maskell Creates Mesmerising Grids Of Colour

The Melbourne-based artist's geometric drawings and wooden sculptures are a cross between 'colour theory and colour therapy'.
Christina Karras

Gardens

A Boundless Garden Immersed In Native Bushland

A new coastal home on the Mornington Peninsula buried deep within a native grassy woodland, with stunning gardens by Plume Studio.

Climate

Everything You Need To Know About GreenPower (+ Why You Should Make The Switch)

The easiest way to invest in in Australia's renewable future - and it's simpler (and cheaper) than you think!

Art

9 Unmissable Exhibitions To See In 2023!

From NGV's Alexander McQueen exhibition, to a showcase of Frida Kahlo's works, here are the must-see exhibitions of the coming year.
Christina Karras

Homes

A Quirky Redfern Terrace With A Hidden Green Roof

The unconventional family home of designer Sacha Coles, split over 4 levels!

Gardens

A Lush Secret Garden, Inside A Converted Melbourne Church!

This surprising garden in East Melbourne has its own lagoon pool, a natural fish pond and 10m-tall walls covered in ivy.
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Modern Court House For Yackandandah

Archier director Chris Gilbert returns to his hometown to design Court House, signifying a new era in Yackandandah's residential landscape.

Architecture

A Classic 1960s Australian Beach Cabin, Renovated With Soul

A sympathetic beach shack makeover by Lian prioritises its special place on Victoria's surf coast.

Architecture

A Tropical Sydney Tree House Assembled Like A Meccano Set

Perched in the treetops above Palm Beach, this home by CplusC Architectural Workshop delivers everything you'd want in a tree house.

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