Bondi House interior

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.

Photos courtesy: Relyon Constructions

Author

Gabrielle Chariton

From the street, this North Bondi home may not turn many heads: all that’s visible is an elegantly finished garage and gate. But the lush greenery springing up from the concealed terrace above the garage hints at the oasis-like retreat that lies within. 

This twice-awarded home was built by HIA member Relyon Constructions, a 15-year-old company that specialises in commercial fitout, high-end residential and government work in and around Sydney. Director Scott Thurkettle says that as a knock-down rebuild, the project presented a number of design and logistical challenges, thanks in part to the tight, narrow block. The existing home was a single-level Californian bungalow, which the clients had been living in for a while. 

‘They loved the area, but they found the house very dark, with the neighbouring properties casting shadows over them,’ Scott says. ‘They wanted to open it up, let the light and the air in, and bring as much greenery into the house as possible.’ They were also focused on creating a sustainable, thermally-efficient home that could deliver energy and water savings over the long term.
Bondi House courtyard screening
Laser-cut screens in a faux-rust finished aluminium were installed to obscure the neighbours’ views
Bondi House dining room
The eco-luxe interiors were designed by Darren Palmer from Channel Nine’s The Block<br>
As the block was closely hemmed in by buildings on three sides (including a block of units to the rear), the new home’s simple yet elegant layout extends upwards rather than outwards, to capture more sunlight and the prevailing sea breezes. The early days of the epic 18-month build proved incredibly challenging, thanks to the site’s beachside location, size and limited accessibility. 

‘Being so close to the beach, the site was very sandy – when you excavate, it drops away more easily than soil or rock,’ Scott explains. ‘So with extensive excavation needed within close proximity to all three boundaries, contiguous piling and retaining walls had to be constructed with caution and accuracy.’ 
The next problem was logistics: the home was constructed using a pre-finished steel frame comprising nine-metre beams and 18-metre struts. The only way to get them in was by crane, which involved closing off the whole (busy) street to through traffic for the duration.

 ‘There were up to 10 properties in the street that were being renovated at the same time, so the logistics of getting large materials in, negotiations and keeping the neighbours up to speed, it was quite challenging,’ Scott says.
Bondi House interior
Water tanks were installed beneath the internal courtyard to harvest rainwater
Bondi House bathroom
A Dynalite home automation system helps the homeowners monitor and minimise their energy use
Once the pre-finished structural members were welded into place, the home began to take shape. Sweeping across the length of the structure is a singular curved roofline, pivotal in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. It swings up over the south-facing living areas, suspended off the eastern and western walls by glazing so the whole space is flooded with natural light. Where the roof rises above the outdoor kitchen, striking laser-cut screens in a faux-rust finished aluminium were installed to obscure the neighbours’ views, without compromising the airy ambience of the space below. 

Beneath the roofline, the home’s split-level layout utilises solar passive design principles and a series of interconnected outdoor areas to maximise thermal performance and reduce the home’s reliance on artificial heating and cooling. Strategically positioned louvres enable cross-ventilation, and a large Vergola roof was installed over the northern orientation to control solar gain across the changing seasons. 

Private courtyards flank the kitchen and living areas, landscaped with ponds, wide planter boxes and green walls overflowing with lush foliage. This seamless integration of indoor and outdoor space and greenery evokes an oasis-like calm; a unique sense of seclusion and sanctuary from the city outside. 

The eco-luxe interiors were designed by Darren Palmer (from Channel Nine’s The Block). The architectural drama of the soaring ceiling is offset with the use of warm, natural finishes, with recycled materials adding to the home’s environmental ethos.
Bondi House garden

A split-level layout utilises solar passive design principles and a series of interconnected outdoor areas to maximise thermal performance

‘A lot of the old sandstone footings that were from the original home were cut up and used as claddings or paving,’ Scott says. ‘And there was a beautiful Balinese front door which was put back into the property as a feature.’ 

Timber – mostly cedar – features heavily throughout, with decorative joinery in the living room constructed from recycled boat timbers. Hardwoods retrieved from an old pier splice the travertine island bench in the kitchen. 

Water tanks were installed beneath the internal courtyard to harvest rainwater. This is plumbed to the garden taps, ponds, irrigation systems and toilets. The north-facing section of the roof is fitted with a 45kW solar power system, and a Dynalite home automation system, which controls everything from the water pumps for the backyard ponds to the lighting, blinds, audio and security, helps the homeowners monitor and minimise their energy use. 

‘The owners liked the thought of a one-stop-shop, meaning one iPad could operate everything from wherever they are in the house,’ Scott explains. ‘It also records how much energy they’re using at certain times of the day so they can monitor when to run appliances’ – for example, operating the pond pumps during the day when solar energy is being harvested. 

The owners have been living in their new home for a while now, and Scott reports that they loved it from the moment it was completed (despite a bit of a learning curve on the home automation). ‘It’s a really amazing property,’ he says. ‘It looks out over Bondi, but it’s so private. The light, the airflow, the integrated ponds and greenery – it’s amazing that this was all achieved on such a small, skinny block.’
Bondi House interior

North Bondi house at a glance

Builder: Relyon Constructions
Designer: Darren Palmer
Location: North Bondi, Sydney

Materials:

  • Frame: pre-finished structural steel
  • Roof: Colorbond
  • Cladding: cedar boards
  • Floors: European oak engineered boards, recycled rubber, limestone tiles
  • Wiring: Dynalite Smart Home system
  • Kitchen: recycled hardwood, silver travertine benchtops, polyurethane cabinetry
  • Ceiling: cedar cladding
  • Courtyards: hardwood decking, recycled sandstone, laser-cut aluminium screen, limestone paving, Vergola opening and closing roof system.

Related Articles

In the deep end

This five-storey building could be mistaken for an apartment block rather than a home, but in fact, it’s an exceptional combination of the two.

Old house new views

This build starts with a cosy cottage and adds glass walls and sea views with a contemporary addition up top.

Sunset stunner

A farmhouse style property from the seventies gets a new lease of life with high-quality features and a new internal layout.

Brickface the brave

Old bricks meet new in this bold corner build that easily fits a garage, pool, studio apartment and roof deck onto a laneway location in inner-city Melbourne.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers