sandstone facade

Set in stone

This majestic architectural delight overseeing Sydney Harbour is underpinned not only by powerful stone buttresses, but by the extraordinary workmanship of HIA member Critharis Constructions.

Photos: Anson Smart Photography for Decus Interiors

Author

Annie Reid

A glamorous leather wall-tiled powder room. A sculptural staircase hand-shaped onsite. Electroplated finishes on all metal surfaces.

Welcome to Hill House, a custom-designed project overlooking Sydney Harbour by renowned architecture practice, Luigi Rosselli Architects, and interior designer, Decus Interiors.

Bringing the brief to life – a forever home for the owners and their four teenage children – is Critharis Constructions, founded by brothers and second-generation builders, Con and Elia Critharis, who are joined by Elia’s son, Will. 

‘The owners wanted a warm family home rather than an art gallery,’ construction director, Will Critharis says. ‘It needed to be nice and aesthetic, but warm and family-based as well.’ 

sandstone facade
Hill House, overlooking Sydney Harbour, makes a grand impression with its sandstone features.
Photo: Anson Smart
blue furnishings living room
The brief specified irregular materials and finishes that required builders Critharis Constructions to demonstrate extraordinary craftsmanship to ensure every element appeared light and effortless.
Photo: Anson Smart 

On a steep, sloping site, the house makes a grand impression with a cobbled entry courtyard surrounded by three sandstone walls, and opens to a large entry foyer and spectacular, sweeping staircase. With three levels, five split-levels and a lift, the floor plan comprises a mix of generous, free-flowing zones offering dedicated spaces for the whole family. 

The main living floor includes formal lounge and dining spaces, kitchen and dress-circle views across Sydney Harbour and the city. Expansive travertine marble floors, engineered timber floors and handmade, frameless steel windows maximise the views. Downstairs, a large rumpus area, gym and cellar flow out to the landscaped lawn and pool, while upstairs, there’s the bedroom wing (six bedrooms altogether). Plus a home office and two laundries too. 

Delivering a project of this calibre required a meticulous hands-on approach. As the brief specified the incorporation of irregular materials and finishes not normally used together, the Critharis team had to demonstrate extraordinary craftsmanship to ensure every element appeared light, effortless and exuded warmth.

‘We have worked with all of these materials before, but the combination of them was a little bit different. We enjoy seeing the different things on projects that the designers come up with,’ Will says.

A key challenge was translating the sheer number of curves in the build, a signature of Luigi Rosselli’s architecture.

curved staircase
The beautifully crafted staircase is 'a sculptural element' within the home.
Photo: Anson Smart 
open plan living room
The zinc-clad roof resembles a wave with its fine, thin profile. 
Photo: Anson Smart 

Providing a taste of what’s to come, the best example is the zinc-clad roof visible from the street that resembles a wave with its fine, thin profile. 

‘Several of the sections needed to be pre-assembled off-site and welded together before they were craned in,’ Will says. ‘Some of the sections also had to be folded specially to meet the curves, which all had to be done by hand.’ 

At the lower rear level, a series of four monolithic sandstone arches extend from the rumpus, anchoring the house and the upper levels to prevent the whole building from sliding downhill. 

‘We made the stonemason 27 individual templates to copy for each stone in each arch, so that all of the arches when looked at from every side looked the same,’ Will says. ‘They were a lot of work, but they really stand out.’

Inside, there are few surfaces that aren’t straight. There’s curved timber veneer panelling, a curved kitchen island bench, curved joinery on desks in the bedrooms as well as in the main bedroom ensuite.

Even the timber ceilings in the house are rounded, according to Will. ‘There’s a slight curve there to continue the curved theme in the house,’ he says.

Another showstopper is the staircase. Once the concrete structure was in place, the blocks that comprise the balustrade had to be built and curved by hand, so that the spine of the house lines up precisely from top to bottom. 

‘It’s a sculptural element within the space. It looks light and flowy, and because there’s also a curved rail, it doesn’t look too bulky.’ 

As much as this house is about grand gestures, it’s equally the small details executed to perfection that elevate the wow factor. 

Bronze tapware and door hardware, bronze internals to the lift, electroplating to the joinery and bronze patina to all metal finishes, add warmth and refinement. The kitchen rangehood is also wrapped in bronze electroplated metal, from which is cantilevered a marble shelf. 

beige charcoal marble kitchen
The kitchen rangehood is wrapped in bronze electroplated metal, with a cantilevered marble shelf. 
Photo: Anson Smart 
dusky pink tiles marble bathroom
The showstopping powder room features pink leather tiles and a stone integrated basin and vanity. 
Photo: Anson Smart 

Outside, the pedestrian gate features a steel frame with a custom, woven bronze mesh infill. Elsewhere, metals line up with stone, and timber with benchtops and door openings, all combining to the design’s sense of fluidity. 

Then there’s the powder room. Featuring musky pink leather tiles to the rear wall and a stone vanity with an integrated stone basin, the space may be small, but it packs a punch. ‘The plans were designed to suit the space-sizing of the tiles, which required very fine tolerances and perfect alignment,’ Will says.  

Will and his team had to check measure before the tiles were ordered and custom made, and then had to build exactly to the plans because the tiles couldn’t be cut in half or trimmed along the edges afterwards. 

‘The room had to be finished basically. With a pop of colour in the pink wall and a bright green bench, it’s quite a contrast to the rest of the house.’ 

From start to finish, the build was complex, as the team found out. The site itself is steep and made of sand, which meant considerable temporary shoring and contiguous piling to support the new structure and its three levels. The entire lower level had to be dug out with excavators into the existing hill, leaving the bottom half of the house partially underground. 

‘You couldn’t just pour three slabs and be done with it,’ he says. ‘One relied on the first one being finished before the other one could start.’

The sloping site is narrow too, so many of the materials had to be craned in, requiring meticulous planning and organisation for each product, bricklayer, concreter and other tradespeople to arrive at the right time. 

Regardless, the project finished in two years on time and on budget – a triumph.

‘We couldn’t have asked for a better team. Everyone was happy to work together, and we all had the same goal – delivering the best possible house for the clients and their family,’ Will says. 

And no art gallery in sight. 

dining room
Small details perfectly executed elevate the wow factor, including the European Oak wall panelling. 
Photo: Anson Smart
exterior sandstone house
Four monolithic sandstone arches extend from the rumpus, anchoring the house and the upper levels.
Photo: Anson Smart
door entry

Builder: Critharis Constructions
Architects: Luigi Rosselli (design), Blake Letnic and Rebekah Munro (project), Luigi Rosselli Architects 
Interior Design: Alexandra Donohoe Church, Decus Interiors
Location: Sydney

Materials:

  • Zinc roof: Sterland Roofing 
  • Sandstone buttresses: masonry by Divine Cornerstone
  • Gate: steel frame with a woven brass fabric mesh infill by All Metal Projects
  • Front door: steel mesh from Locker Group, crafted by All Metal Projects 
  • Flooring: Classic Travertine marble from Worldstone; Tongue n Groove Eterno floorboards in Argento
  • Windows: aluminium windows supplied by Vitrocsa and AJ Aluminium; steel windows and fabrication by All Metal Projects 
  • Walls: travertine slabs, custom-stained European Oak panelling
  • Joinery: Enth Degree Projects
  • Kitchen benchtop: Calacatta Oro from WK Stone
  • Powder room: custom-honed Cipollino marble vanity from Granite & Marble Works; Vola brushed black tapware from Candana; leather wall tiles from Analu
  • Electrical: VESH Electrical Services
  • Plumber: S.Gropp and Mechanical: RJ Air
  • Fireplace: Asturia marble hearth and backing by Artedomus
  • Stone fabrication and installation: Granite and Marble Works.
 

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