bellevarde

Into the tempest

Amidst the wild winds overlooking Werri Beach on the NSW South Coast, Bellevarde Constructions has created a family home that is not only awe-worthy; it is award-worthy.

Author

Anne-Maree Brown

What does it take to create a truly exceptional home? Is it a visionary approach, the astute use of innovation, maximising the position the home holds in the landscape, or is it something less tangible, something more in the emotional response the home creates?
 
For 2019 dual award-winner Bellevarde Constructions, what led to achieving the accolades of HIA–CSR Australian Home of the Year and HIA Australian Custom Built Home (partnered by Stramit) is perhaps answered by its showcase of the beauty of nature, while combating the extremes of it; a harmonious balance of man versus nature.
 
From the moment Bellevarde builder Steve O’Ryan stood with architect Andy Carson on the windswept, ocean-facing hilltop they knew one thing with certainty: they had a location as challenging as it was majestic.
 
‘In 42 years of building, this would have to be the windiest site I’d ever worked on,’ Steve says with a laugh.
 
‘But we could see the potential right away.’ 
bellevarde
Taking in the view from this location becomes a particularly magical experience
bellevarde
The two outlook balconies offer a spectacular 180-degree view
bellevarde
Surrounded by rambling beaches and verdant countryside, the area is blessed with the rare marriage of rural and sea
bellevarde
The materials used were selected to gain a patina and settle gracefully into the landscape over time
For anyone who has driven the serene littoral road south of Kiama on the NSW South Coast, they would be familiar with the dramatic headland overlooking Werri Beach north of Gerringong. Surrounded by rambling beaches and verdant countryside, the area is blessed with the rare marriage of rural and sea. This was not lost on the new owners, a young couple who purchased the 150-acre Dovecote Estate, an operating dairy farm since 1834.

Their intention was to create an intimate holiday home, a modern private space that showcased the ocean vista. Having commenced conversations with a few other architects, the owners turned to Andy Carson for his opinion. The Sydney-based architect from Atelier Andy Carson had been fast establishing a reputation for brave urban conversions, including one for the owners of Dovecote Estate in Sydney’s inner city Redfern. 

‘Having worked with the owners before I knew I was working for creative clients, both design literate and savvy,’ Andy says. 

But just as important, he adds, was knowing how they like to live and entertain, which provided an advantage when it came to understanding what should be included in the design.

‘The owners are very social, charitable people,’ Andy reveals. ‘They wanted to make the building work for them, to host events and almost share their space with others. I knew an uncompromising modern project would suit the clients’ design aesthetic.’
Drawing on the panorama, Andy conceptualised the 400-square metre four-bedroom, four-bathroom build with a sharp angular facade. His inspired idea makes the most of the views while creating the sleek contemporary space he knew the owners would respond to; a home of metal, timber and stone, as serene as it was striking.

But when it came to answering how to construct the design, especially protecting the home from squalling head winds, the owners recommended Canberra-based Bellevarde Constructions, known for its expertise in bespoke residential design. 

The attention to detail was a driving concern: ‘Being a minimalist design, if it wasn’t executed immaculately it would be obvious,’ Andy says. ‘I had to find a builder I could trust.’

That’s where Bellevarde Constructions manager Steve O’Ryan came into the picture. A self-confessed country boy at heart, Steve had been forging custom-built homes with Bellevarde for more than 30 years, including the south coast where Dovecote stood. Straight away he knew the key was to develop a close collaborative relationship with Andy and the owners, so they could start work on ways to achieve the outcome they all desired.

‘Steve was very experienced,’ Andy says. ‘We were able to lean on his knowledge straight away.’

bellevarde
Architect Andy Carson
bellevarde
Bellevarde Constructions builder Steve O’Ryan
By the same token, the architect’s ability to listen to the advice given also proved important from the outset: ‘Andy and the owners were happy to take on board our ideas, it really helped to push each other further,’ Steve recalls.

As the build started and the materials – stone, metal and timber – all began to take shape, the momentum was fast but the conditions were not always favourable. The Bellevarde team had an access road, but no water or power. While the weather was unseasonably dry, the constant wind meant the monochrome Holstein dairy cows at the dairy lay witness to at least three sheets of galvanised aluminium flying into the ether.

To add more complexity to the build, the owners had an inspired but challenging suggestion: why not build two homes instead of one? 

‘Originally we had just one build,’ Steve says. ‘But the owners suggested a second property, a little two-bedroom guest house for a farm manager, guests that come to stay, or even a rental.’ 

Amazingly, in just over 12 months Headland House and its accompanying guest space, Escarpment House, were born, taking full advantage of the views, the natural light and the seclusion of its stunning location. 
bellevarde
Knowing how the owners like to live and entertain provided an advantage when it came to understanding what should be included in the design
bellevarde
Their intention was to create an intimate holiday home, a modern private space that showcased the ocean vista
Despite the exposure to the elements, and the addition of a second structure, the build did not suffer from delays. This was partially due to the fact that Steve’s team, consisting of mostly local tradespeople, stayed and lived in and around the build location. The entire team were also vetted and challenged to Steve’s exacting standards. From his drafting ability to his skill at direction it was clear that Steve was skilled across many disciplines. 

The resulting thoughtful composition has produced a home that creates a sunny spot somewhere inside at any point of the day, while the two outlook balconies that branch off the building offer a spectacular 180-degree view. The enclosed courtyard and heated swimming pool allow for a calm escape as the day winds down. 

But, the most impressive feature – a bold cantilevered jut facing out to the sea creates a gravity-defying illusion that will surely become what the home will be most remembered for. The sharp angular facade clad twice in stone and standing seam aluminium cladding is clever, but its main purpose is on the inside. 

Taking in the view from this location becomes a particularly magical experience from behind the 500kg glass panels, installed by hand. It is here in the nicknamed ‘storm-viewing room’, where harsh southerly winds, lightning and rain roll across the headland, that the inhabitants can relax by the suspended fireplace inside.
bellevarde
His inspired idea makes the most of the views while creating the sleek contemporary space 
bellevarde
The enclosed courtyard allows for a calm escape as the day winds down
The materials used were selected to gain a patina and settle gracefully into the landscape over time. Detailed touches such as the absence of visible vents in the bathroom and skirting-free walls throughout makes for a breathtaking seamless interior. 

What is just as apparent is that the success of Headland House came to be through collaboration just as much as creativity.

‘Working with Bellevarde was a process of continual resolving and unravelling to get the best outcome,’ Andy says. ‘The continual communication was very important to the ultimate success of the project.’ 

‘At Bellevarde we get to do a lot of high-end residential houses, everyone is a little bit different and has its own challenges. I guess I am lucky to have got to work on some of the best houses in Australia, with the best architects and the best clients,’ Steve adds. 

‘I’d like to think if someone goes back and visits this home in 30-40 years it will still be standing the test of time.’

Much like the enduring view of the ocean where Headland House and Escarpment House sit, perhaps it’s the harmonious balance of man versus nature that creates an award-winning home. A home that will stand any test of time.
bellevarde

Headland and Escarpment House at a glance

Architect: Atelier Andy Carson
Location: Gerringong, NSW
Awards: 2019 HIA–CSR Australian Home of the Year HIA Australian Custom Built Home
Partners: CSR and Stramit
Materials:
  • Roofing: Copper and Zinc Roof Company 
  • Bricks: Baines Masonry 
  • Concrete: Boral Concrete, Python Concrete Place 
  • Timber: Bracher Timber 
  • Floors: Wallywood engineered floor ‘Driftwood’; tiles from Academy Tiles; paving, Eco Outdoor
  • Windows: Vitrosca
  • Doors: Bakers Joinery 
  • Garage door: Capital Doorworks ACT 
  • Kitchen: Choice Interiors 
  • White goods: Winning Appliances
  • Locks/door hardware: Halliday Baillie

Related Articles

Rundown-to-resplendent

This renovated Queenslander offers the best of eco-conscious design and smart home technology, a proud accomplishment for its Brisbane-based property developers who are determinedly making strides in luxurious eco-friendly housing.

Among the gum trees

A treehouse is typically the stuff of child’s play, but this one in Melbourne’s Clifton Hill is a cut above in every way.

Urban oasis

Designed with a focus on liveability and built with meticulous attention to detail, this verdant, secluded retreat defies the constraints of its location.

Tales of the unexpected

A glorious, post-modern collision of retro motifs, bold colour and elegant raw finishes, Oak House in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy is a stunning reimagining of Victorian architecture.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers