Starting with a pretty patch of dirt on a prime rural location, nature was always going to dictate the look, feel, style and finish of this Lower Belford home.
The result - completed about 18 months ago - is a stunning, low-profile building, simply and naturally arranged to match the surrounding landscape.
The owner-builder engaged Mark Lawler Architects, on recommendation from a friend. They had a firm idea of what they wanted to achieve, but needed an architectural design to meet their requirement of a home befitting its beautiful rural setting in the Upper Hunter.
Mark Lawler Architects director Stephen Coon says it was the land that dictated the design of the new home.
“Free from the influences of any neighbouring dwellings or council code restrictions normally associated in a suburban environment, the best spot on the expansive property was selected and from there the design unfolded,” he says.
“The plan form is a direct interpretation of this unfolding process, stretching out in three wings from a central entry point to encapsulate outlooks to the tranquil countryside and the mountains beyond.”
Structuring the Bell Road home in this way has a practical as well as aesthetic function.
“The wings themselves clearly delineate the household’s different functions,” Coon says. “The eastern wing contains the bedrooms, the western wing contains the service spaces and the parents’ private retreat, and the central wing contains the active spaces of kitchen, dining and living.”
The kitchen, dining and living spaces are open-plan, with striking design features delineating each room. A two-way gas fireplace stands between the living and dining areas, while a large island bench marks entry to the kitchen.
Features such as the fireplace, stylish Chesterfield sofas in the lounge room, and the white and timber colour scheme of the dining and kitchen decor, give the furnishings a modern look, mixed with a tone of country warmth and style.
The materials used to build the home also pay homage to the rural surrounds. Coon says the material palette selected for the building was designed to compliment the natural setting, with the main visual feature being the external walls’ rammed earth panels and stained timber boarding.
“These elements have been architecturally composed with extensive glazing and a low profile roof to form simple, strong shapes that encloses rooms for shelter yet also opens them up to the expansive country outlook,” he says.
Coon says rammed earth was an uncommon building material.
The owner researched it extensively in a quest for a construction method that offered ultimate natural thermal and aesthetic benefits.
“Its thickness as a single skin allows it to be both an external and internal finish,” Coon says.
“Combined with the concrete floor slab, the rammed earth walls provide great thermal mass.”
Arranging windows with north-facing glazing in all living areas and locating service rooms such as the garage, laundry and bathroom on the western sides of the home also enhanced the thermal efficiency and comfort.
Courtyard spaces - including a fantastic outdoor entertaining area adjacent to the kitchen and living room - are designed with comfort in mind.
Located between sections of the main building, these outdoor areas absorb the warmth of the winter sun, while also providing shelter from winds and the harsh afternoon sun in summer.
Coon says the owners also carefully considered all internal finishes and furnishings to maintain a palette that is reserved and composed but enhanced with country character.
“Square set raking ceilings, clean white painted walls and sleek kitchen finishes are offset by a profiled timber ceiling fan, leather lounges and a central gas fireplace set in rammed earth,” he says.
Having renovated houses previously, the owner-builder had a firm idea of what they wanted to achieve, Coon says.
Being meticulous in their level of detailing and finishing, they produced a high-standard result befitting of the beautiful rural setting.
The home’s architecture also achieves this harmony with the land.
“There is a simplicity in the design and the arrangement of materials and finishes that respects its environment,” Coon says.
“It is clean, fresh, light, airy and spacious without being wasteful, and detailed without being exorbitant or ostentatious.”
Pictures: Murray McKean