Island escape

When a fourth-generation builder took on a project on Magnetic Island, he brought in his long-time design and construction team and acquired local materials to make the complex build run smoothly.

Photos: Matthew Gianoulis

Author

Annie Reid

It’s fitting that a house made of steel is now on Magnetic Island, a tropical setting off the Great Barrier Reef. Not only has fourth-generation builder Joe Gedoun and his team created a home attracting all the right attention, but they’ve also won a swag of industry awards, elevating the island’s appetite for innovative construction. 

‘It’s been good on all levels, and especially good to have a client that basically let us do what we needed to do to realise the final design,’ says Joe, director of Gedoun Constructions in Townsville. 

The client was no stranger to Joe’s work; he’d commissioned him for a million-dollar commercial fitout several years ago. This time, it was for a sea-change getaway big enough to retreat to, comfortable enough for his children and grandchildren to stay in, and enduring enough to pass down through the family generations.

 

To realise the exceptional brief, he didn’t look far; he was keen to engage the same design and construction team as before.  

‘He wanted to get the band back again,’ Joe says, laughing, ‘then have us all come together singing off the same sheet of music.’

The build is over two storeys, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms featuring two pavilions connected by a large, raked atrium soaring to six metres. To capture the indoor/outdoor lifestyle, an outdoor kitchen joins an award-winning, resort-style swimming pool, with an effortless sequence of breezeways, outdoor rooms and decks, plus a generous first floor with four bedrooms. 

To further enrich the house’s indoor/outdoor area, Joe and the team in collaboration with local architect firm, Counterpoint Architecture, used clever touches, such as custom fabricated aluminium screens. Flooding and filtering light and air throughout, the screens also act as doors to the pool on gas struts, which can be lifted easily allowing outdoor access, or lowered and locked to secure the building. At a finer level, there is custom cabinetry throughout, along with a wish from the owners to see imperfect perfection, such as exposed nail holes and continuous pieces of wood. 

As the project began, there was no escaping the obvious – how to build a big house on a remote island. Quite quickly, the team established that steel would work best, using a prefabrication methodology. The building could be structured out of a steel portal frame, pre-made and then taken to the site for assembly.

‘Basically, they bolt the whole thing together. They bolt on over the footings that we’ve provided for them, and we just went in and filled in all the steel structures,’ Joe says.

 

Every product was then arranged on a 45-minute barge ride over to the island. Not only did they have to physically fit onto the barge, but also on the truck on the barge before being transported to the site.

While most of the co-ordination went smoothly, other elements were tricky. For example, ocean tides at the time held up construction for two weeks because the barge was floating at a height too low for the crane to be driven off the barge. ‘We had to wait for higher, high tides,’ Joe explains.

But there were ample opportunities for Joe and his team to flex their craftmanship skills. The team had to carefully select products to withstand the elements of an exposed coastal location, with project engineers devising custom specifications for the steel finishes.

‘There are no hollow sections that could rust from the inside out,’ Joe says. ‘You can see both sides – inside and out – of the structural material.’ This helps monitor any corrosive issues during the yearly home inspections.

Another great example is the charred hardwood cladding used on the lower level of the house, one of its first applications in Australia. ‘The cladding fabricators take four different species of hardwood, mix them up in a bundle, and then pre-burn the top of it. The four types of hardwood crackle up in different formats, creating a textural and crazy crackling effect, but so the structural integrity isn’t compromised,’ he says.

 

The team also used eco-panel plywood sheeting, a seamless pre-finished panel that lines the kitchen and living pavilion. 

Mixing up the batches could have risked changes to the overall colour, so Joe decided to wait three months for one whole batch to be made and delivered. ‘The only reason we got it made was because we wanted it all in the same batch,’ he says. 

It was well worth the wait. The panelling’s light blonde colouring appears seamless in situ, and conveys a soft, Scandinavian aesthetic. ‘It’s definitely a modern-style island home,’ Joe says. ‘It lets the wildlife in, and birds fly in and through this house.’

For his apprentices and tradespeople on his jobs, the 20-year HIA member sees his role as a way to give back, leaving another builder or carpenter for the industry when he retires.
‘I love teaching young folks and my dad always said you had to replace yourself with at least one person,’ he says.

This flows through to his personal approach too; he was committed to acquire as much of the materials locally and to engage all local trades and suppliers available on Magnetic Island. For example, the galvanised steel framing, custom aluminium screens, doors and gates, and punched aluminium screens as balustrading were all locally fabricated and sourced in Townsville. 

It’s fitting that the house has been named ‘Cooinda’ by the owners, an Indigenous word meaning ‘a happy place’. And with five state HIA awards, it certainly appears Magnetic Island is attracting the right hype.

 

Magnetic Island house at a glance

Builder: Gedoun Constructions

Location: Magnetic Island, Queensland

Materials:

  • Charred timber: Shiplap profile, 8mm rebate 124 x 19 t/g, secret fixed or end matched one coat of Cutek black ash preservative applied
  • Eco panel plywood sheeting: A-grade veneer finished with intergrain Ultrafloor
  • Flooring: Spotted gum timber finished with Intergrain Ultrafloor
  • Cemintel Barestone sheeting: 9mm fibre cement lining fixed on battens
  • Balustrading: Custom-made punched aluminium sheeting
  • Framing: Custom fabricated steel framing, hot-dip galvanised finish
  • Slats: Custom fabricated aluminium 70 x 25 x 1.5 square edge angle slats at 70mm CRS with powdercoated finish
  • Roofing: Lysaght Spandek in Wallaby.
 

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