OR VIEW ALL
With its curved and white rendered facade setoff against a sandstone wall and base, the fine horizontal portico roof, glass and timber battened entry and curved window visible down the western side, the first impression this house gives is that it is consciously referencing the Dudoklan -inspired pre- and immediate post-War modernist houses so typical of Sydney's eastern suburbs.
It is certainly true that in terms of scale and palette of materials, architect Luigi Rosselli has designed the house to complement its immediate context - a part of Woollahra which has resisted the predations of the nouveaux riches and retained an attractive historical reserve. But any formal similarity to the hand-me-down art deco buildings of the pre-Wareastern suburbs is largely adventitious.
Rosselli happily acknowledges the influence of Alvar Aalto - presumably the fluid forms and harmonious mix of materials of Aalto's Villa Mairea - but it is more a matter of applying principles derived from Aalto and Rosselli's other important inspiration, Alvaro Siza. Given such antecedents, it is not surprising that Rosselli describes the spirit of the house as a 'romantically informed modernism". It is not, he says, "just a package, like minimalism, to be thrown away."
There are no contrived metaphors or imposed styles here. In fact, the form of the house is a response to pragmatic issues, The original house on the site was oriented to the south, so the f irst objective was to orient the new house to capture northern light and warmth. To do this, Rosselli aligned the new house along the western property line. But needing to accommodate a garage at the southern end, the house was rotated so that it 'kicks' around halfway down, This kink is repeated by the internal circulation of the house and on the eastern facade, although here it is softened into a glazed curve which gently embraces the upper garden.
This curving is a feature of the house overall - a fluid-ity expressed on the outside by the curved front wall and reversed curve to the front fence which allows fora pedestrian entry gate. It is echoed in the curved window which looks out from the walk-in robe and dressing room for the first floor master bedroom and in the general sense of easy circulation which makes movement through the house a kind of journey of discovery.
What looks to be a small-scale house from the street turns out to be quite substantial - four large bedrooms on the first floor, spacious open plan living, dining, breakfast and kitchen areas on the ground floor and a generous rumpus room and storage in the basement, together with four bathrooms. All this is made possible by exploiting the steeply sloping site to create three levels. Entry is at street level where the first floor contains three bedrooms - two children's bedrooms connected by a common bathroom and a large master bed room with terrace, en suite, walk-in robe and dressing room.
The Siza-inspired 'plastic distortion' has a particularly intriguing internal expression with the stairway linking all three levels and which narrows, then opens up as it reaches the ground floor. A skylight which draws I i g ht into the stairway void continues across from the western side and into the largely east-facing living area on the ground floor, drawing extra light into what could be a relatively dark room late in the day.
The house steps down to the ground floor whose open plan is interrupted only by a dividing wall open at both ends between the living and dining areas, and the wall which separates the kitchen/pantry f rom two study areas which flow naturally off the breakfast area.
The basement level contains the guest bedroom and a large rumpus room leading out to a timber deck connected to the swimming pool by a glass footbridge - the two forming a gentle dog-leg to mimic the kink in the house elevation. Vladimir Sitta's landscaping makes a virtue of the stepped site, but also echoes the house's characteristic curves by the way it'waves'down from the first floor (living/dining) level to the lower level.
Internally, the house adopts a number of Aalto-esque principles, in particular the use of light to open up a space and transform our experience of it. Like Aalto, Rosselli does not like to leave things too regular for too long. Hence, the organisation of space is rational, but informed by intuitive gestures - curves, obtuse angles interrupting right angles, surprising spatial reveals and a blend of warm and cool, natural and synthetic materials.
Hence, the house has an overtly modernist feel to it by its use of glass, rendered concrete, stainless steel and near-white stone flooring. But this is warmed by the selective use of timber flooring and joinery, sandstone, cork flooring in the rumpus room and a fulsome embrace of the outside by extensive glazing (itself modulated by some discreet fenestration such as the opaque filmed glass in the curved corner window off the master bedroom).
The success of the house lies in the fact that it is ultimately a home. Indeed, it turns a discreet face to the street. The small garden with its magnolia tree next to the entry gate and the deep portico act as transition spaces to a domestic world hidden behind a front faQade which ignores the outside apart from a slender vertical slot window. Once past the opaque glass entry door and timber-battened entry wall, a whole new world opens up with a blend of easily accessed communal spaces and private areas, an elegant but easy refuge from the outside world.