Steel and glass home

Victorian vista

Clever use of steel and glass ensure this builder’s family home connects with, and at the same time withstands, the elements in its rural location.

Photos courtesy Excelcon

Author

Ian Bushnell

HIA member Steve Bright is adamant his latest family home – a stunning contemporary four-bedroom build with commanding views of the Victorian countryside – will be his last.

He and wife Donna, through his company Excelcon, have built and moved in and out of 13 homes in 17 years. ‘I won’t build again, I’m done. I love it,’ he says of Ashford House, which rules over a horse agistment property at Upper Beaconsfield, south-east of Melbourne.

Designed by Graham Jones, the barn-shaped single-level home reflects its rural location and features four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a gym, butler’s pantry, and a spacious kitchen, dining and living room – forming part of the entertaining and alfresco area. There is also a triple garage.

‘We wanted a house that was going to fit in that environment, take in the view and suit us. It’s a horse farm so we wanted something that’s going to suit that type of lifestyle,’ Steve says. ‘You can see over the whole property. We can see people coming in and out, but it’s far enough away to be dead private.’

The home is luxurious but minimalist, with clean lines and a spacious open plan. For Steve, it simply flows well, and the surrounding picturesque landscape can be appreciated out of every room without losing privacy.

The views come courtesy of floor-to-ceiling glass windows on two sides, which provided some engineering challenges during the $1 million-plus, 10-month build.

Glass windows
The build pioneered the use of Stegbar’s innovative Alumiere windows
Rural bathroom
The surrounding picturesque landscape can be appreciated out of every room without losing privacy

Most of the structure is Colorbond steel; a good low-maintenance, reasonably-priced product that Steve says was easy to work with and install.

More steel comes in the shape of the sway frame, engineered to allow for movement due to the amount of glass, which also doubles as an aesthetic feature inside the home.

The build pioneered the use of Stegbar’s innovative Alumiere windows, and Excelcon worked closely with Stegbar to customise them to the specifications required.

The main challenge was to maximise the views and maintain the aesthetics without compromising structural integrity: ‘I didn’t want big posts or columns in between the window frames,’ Steve says.

The solution was to design a flat piece of 6mm by 100mm steel that could support the windows so that the frames could butt up together rather than have a 90mm post.

‘If you see the window frames they’re all really close together; that’s how we did it,’ he reveals.

The bespoke result meant the windows could provide lateral and cross-sectional strength to the home’s structure – appearing as if they’re holding up the home’s entire structure.

The bespoke result meant the windows could provide lateral and cross-sectional strength to the home’s structure – appearing as if they’re holding up the entire house

Stegbar says the Alumiere windows also provide superior acoustic performance, which Steve confirms has been well and truly tested, with the big blows that have buffeted the home. ‘It’s really quiet,’ he says.

The other Stegbar feature is the stacker doors on the alfresco, designed to bring the outside in and make the space available year-round. The doors slide back into the pocket and aren’t even seen when they’re open.

For this house plan, Steve says attention to detail was crucial, especially inside where the steel work and plaster gave no leeway for error; levels had to be perfect and lines dead straight ‘otherwise you were going to see any imperfection’.

It was time consuming, particularly at lock-up when it came to straightening the walls, and he paid tribute to the quality of his tradesmen. Up to 15 men worked on the build, depending on the construction phase, while a full crew was needed to carry and install a massive piece of glass destined for the shower.

Besides all the steel and glass, the home is complemented by silver top ash – which matched a lot of the timber found on the property – on the decking and garage doors, brickwork to the garage and bluestone pavers in the courtyard.

Barn-shaped house
The main challenge was to maximise the views without compromising structural integrity
Glass windows
The steel and glass is complemented by silver top ash, which matched timber found on the property

The home is built for entertainment, with the kitchen and living area opening to the alfresco’s barbecue and pizza oven, and the courtyard: ‘The whole idea is you open up that big sliding door and then you can have your [spacious] entertainment area,’ says Steve, who celebrated his 50th birthday there.

Inside, Donna and Excelcon’s interior designer selected most of the colours and materials, opting for natural black and white, wormy chestnut floors and matching fixtures throughout, porcelain tiles and charcoal carpets in the bedrooms, and a black kitchen island in Neolith.

Ashford House has a six-star energy rating reflecting its eco-friendly features, including foam under the concrete slab, loads of insulation, and either double-glazed or energy-efficient glass. A slow combustion heater also warms the entire house during the cooler months, while rainwater tanks help with water consumption.

Sliding doors on alfresco

The home is built for entertainment, with the kitchen and living area opening to the alfresco and courtyard

A build such as this ensures even the bathrooms come with a view. However, privacy in the shower is offered, while maintaining an outlook, thanks to motorised louvres.

And the designer, Graham Jones, has literally left his mark on the home – a huge abstract painting in the house colours has been incorporated into the sliding door of the master bedroom.

As both client and builder many times over now, Steve knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of his clients.

‘I like to be personally involved with all my clients,’ he says. ‘[Building a house] is the biggest investment anyone makes, so I make sure that we put our heart and soul into their house and I treat anyone’s house like I treat my own. You can’t compromise on quality.’

A HIA member for 28 years, Steve has been a committee man and found fantastic support for his award-winning business from what he says is a ‘great association’.

Barn-shaped house

Ashford House at a glance

Builder: Excelcon

Designer: Graham Jones Design

Location: Upper Beaconsfield, VIC

Materials:

  • Roof and cladding: Colorbond
  • Windows and doors: Stegbar Alumiere range, including stacker doors
  • Decking and garage doors: silver top ash timber
  • Flooring: Beaconsfield Timber & Hardware
  • Tiles: AVJ Ceramics
  • Lighting: Clipsal
  • Louvres: Eclipse
  • Fireplace: Hallam Heating
  • Kitchen appliances: V-zug

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