Jetsons House pool

Modernist marvel

Inspired by the mid-century space-age aesthetic, this home’s daring design called for a pragmatic, solutions-focused approach to construction.

Photos courtesy Seabreeze Homes

Author

Gabrielle Chariton

With its bold linear form and distinctive mid-century curves, this imposing beach-front pad is one of Australia’s most recent examples of Googie-style architecture. At once retro and futuristic, it’s been appropriately dubbed the ‘Jetsons House’ by its architects Dimension3, and builder, award-winning HIA member Peter Wilson of Seabreeze Homes.

Dramatically sweeping along the length of an 812-square metre seaside block at Casuarina in far-north NSW, the two-level luxury home is something of an engineering marvel. The second storey pivots off the first at a sharp angle, resulting in a dramatic, gravity-defying triangular overhang that extends out 10 metres at its widest point.

‘I just thought it was one out of the box,’ Peter says of his initial reaction to the design. ‘I was quite blown away by how we could possibly cantilever the building that far.’

Offset cantilevered slab
Gravity-defying triangular overhang
Jetsons House living room
Distinctive mid-century curves

Seabreeze Homes has been building custom homes in and around the Casuarina region since 2001, and has worked with the owner of the Jetsons House on previous projects. ‘He’s very innovative, always trying to create things a bit differently,’ Peter explains.

For this particular job, Peter came on board once the architect’s plans were completed. ‘I helped [the owner] with the construction methodology. We worked together to identify what would work and what wouldn’t, and solve the buildability problems – there’s plenty of those when you’re cantilevering 10 metres.’ The primary aim, he says, was to generate pragmatic solutions to a complex design, optimising efficiencies in terms of time and costs.

Once the engineering and construction plans were in place, building commenced in March 2017. An easy site gave the Seabreeze team an early advantage: ‘We were working on flat beachfront land so there was no cutting and filling, plus there was a vacant block of land next door so it was easily accessible,’ Peter says.

Despite the home’s futuristic appearance, it was built using a simple combination of conventional, tried-and-true techniques and materials. The ground floor was constructed primarily from blockwork, with 90mm studs for intermediate walls ‘to save internal floor space’.

Jetsons House twilight
‘It was a really unique project, we’ve never done anything of that nature before’
Dark timber retro kitchen
At once retro and futuristic, it’s been appropriately dubbed the ‘Jetsons House’

The custom-built home was a finalist in the 2018 HIA Gold Coast/Northern Rivers Housing Awards

‘Then on top of that was the key to the project, the offset cantilevered slab,’ Peter says. Retaining the slab’s structural integrity across the 10-metre overhang was largely due to clever engineering, but it was also constructed for maximum strength from reinforced concrete. ‘We didn’t use a post-form or pre-tensing slab, we just used reinforcement steel and very large bar members. It’s a very thick slab and there’s a lot of steel holding it up.

‘Half of that slab created the roof for the ground floor, then from there we went back to a more conventional building design for the second storey, where the two ends were blockwork all the way up to the roofline, with standard studwork internally and a truss timber roof.’

A key feature of the home’s design is the seamless, curved connect between roof and walls. Visually, there’s no distinction between the two; the house reads as a split pair of rounded-off rectangles. Peter achieved the requisite streamlined finish by devising a special reverse butterfly box gutter system.

‘The key element with the design was to keep everything slimline,’ Peter says. ‘On a traditional box gutter setup you have to run the full length of the roof, the width of the roof, which could be generally speaking about six metres, and on the minimum fall of two degrees you’re creating quite a slope or distance between top and bottom. We halved it, so we only had to work with a minimum fall of three metres, which allowed us to really cut down that parapet.

‘Design-wise it came together really well, we’ve been able to keep the dimensions of the parapets the same from the sides right through to the roof to the bottom floor.’

The fabulous retro curves around the ‘porthole’ windows at the end of the building were created by grinding the blockwork back and filling in with render – simple but effective. ‘The glass installation was probably the hardest at the ends [of the building] because it was a thick piece of glass that we had to push into the opening. That was a little bit tricky.’

Retro bathroom
‘Porthole’ windows at the end of the building were created by grinding the blockwork back and filling in with render
Jetsons House
The house reads as a split pair of rounded-off rectangles

The wall-to-wall high-performance glazing that extends across the north and south-facing elevations of the home (70 metres in total) required a slightly different approach: ‘It was all built in situ. The glass itself isn’t load bearing, it’s just fitted into a slot; we used a procedure similar to commercial high-rise building.’

Astonishingly, the build was completed in just nine months. ‘The test of any building, as far as the construction method goes, is how long it takes to build…on a buildability level we were able to bring it together really quickly, purely by the simplicity of our technique.’

The finished home, with five bedrooms and three bathrooms, comes in at a very generous 412 square metres, and was a finalist in the Custom Built Home ($1-2 million) category at the 2018 HIA Gold Coast/Northern Rivers Housing Awards. The owners moved in almost a year ago, and Peter says they love living in it. ‘They’re happy with the finish and the way it functions, which is really important. It’s not enough just to have a nice-looking house, it’s got to perform well too.’

And for Peter, taking such a fantastical design off the page and into reality represents a significant professional achievement. ‘It was a really unique project, we’ve never done anything of that nature before. I’m very proud of having that in our collection.’

Jetsons House home and pool

Jetsons House at a glance

Builder: Seabreeze Homes

Designer: Dimension3 Architects

Location: Casuarina, NSW

Materials:

*This article has been republished with a correction. This build used Alspec Systems aluminium windows and doors, fabricated and installed by Tweed Coast Glass.

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