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Bushland oasis

With its understated luxury, tactile finishes and flawless detailing, this Palm Beach holiday house by Bau Group is a sanctuary worth escaping to for its owners.

Photos: Prue Ruscoe

Bushland oasis

With its understated luxury, tactile finishes and flawless detailing, this Palm Beach holiday house by Bau Group is a sanctuary worth escaping to for its owners.

Photos: Prue Ruscoe
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Gabrielle Chariton

Author

Contributor to Housing

Tantalisingly evocative of breezy summer days, Woorak House is an oasis of calm and beauty. Its pristine white walls gleam beneath sweeping palm fronds; swathes of timber intersect with natural sandstone; and its airy pavilions open onto the lush greenery of the surrounding bushland.

Designed by Megan Burns of CM Studio and brought to life by prestige building practice Bau Group, the home’s beachy tranquillity is no accident. As a holiday house set on Sydney’s Palm Beach peninsula, its raison d’etre is escape and relaxation. David Schubert, Managing Director and co-founder of Bau Group, says that the clients, a young family, were seeking a getaway abode that offered easy living and a ‘coastal, relaxed vibe with a timeless design’.

Bau Group, which has been a member of HIA for the past five years, was established in 2005 and specialises in architect-designed luxury residential construction. With 30 staff (including six apprentices) on the books, the company completes between five and six large projects per year, working anywhere from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Bondi.

Passionate craftsmen, the Bau team operate with a client-focused, collaborative approach, and much of the success of Woorak House must be attributed to the strong working partnership that was forged between the designer (who Bau has worked with on a number of previous projects) and the clients.

‘We believe that [building a home] has to be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved, including the architects, the owners and us,’ David explains. ‘Throughout this project, the client had a lot of input and was very much involved in the decision-making,’ David says. ‘That's something that we strongly encourage…we thrive on the client being a part of the process from start to finish.’

Set on a narrow block a couple of streets from the beach, and bordered on one side by bushland, the home was constructed primarily from concrete and masonry. The layout is simple and uncluttered: on the ground floor, a bedroom-lined hallway gives way to an expansive pavilion housing the kitchen and living spaces. A gently curving stairwell leads to the master suite on the second storey.

The lofty, airy pavilion underpins the home’s laid-back sensibilities. Lined on three sides with bi-folding windows, it sits beneath a 5.5-metre high-raked ceiling, which was painstakingly clad in hand-cut hardwood boards by the Bau team. David says the volume of this room necessitated some creative engineering. ‘To support the ceiling and stop it spreading out, we constructed a large concrete perimeter beam, which was formed up and poured onsite.’

The home owes much of its ambience to an uncommon simplicity of form. ‘The biggest challenge for us was that everything had to be concealed,’ David says. ‘You’ll notice that there are no external downpipes, everything is concealed with box gutters, there’s no skirtings or architraves to hide the joins…to create that simplistic look presents a few challenges and there was quite a lot of construction detailing that we had to work through.’

The team adapted their methodologies to achieve this streamlined aesthetic, for example by installing plasterboard followed by tiles to ensure a seamless join. ‘You’re doing things in reverse, which means you have to protect everything and there's just a little bit more that has to happen in order to make that detail work.’

The palette is organic, yet refined: a perfectly attenuated mix of large-format stone floor tiles, oak joinery, marble and brass accents. The exterior walls are clad in Rosewood timber screening, which, in time, will weather down to a silvery grey. The extensive use of Marrakesh render, indoors and out, introduces a certain softness to the pared-back architecture, its lustrous, tactile appeal imbuing the interiors with a hint of the Mediterranean.

Throughout the home, handcrafted elements speak to the patience and skill of the carpenters and trades, as well as Bau’s client-focused ethos. An oak-lined arch linking the master bedroom to the study, for example, was the client’s flight of fancy that required some out-of-the-box thinking to achieve. ‘It looks simple but that was really, really hard to do,’ David says. ‘Templates were made onsite and then it was all fitted with the team of joiners. It took a few weeks to get that in and finessed, and all the edges detailed.’

Curved walls – a recurring design motif – were constructed from CSR Hebel, reinforced with steel and glue. ‘We shaped all the curves onsite with the designer to get that natural, organic look, then finished them in the Marrakesh plaster.’ The fireplace, too, was constructed from polystyrene-clad masonry and hand-sculpted before being rendered.

All up, Woorak House took 11 months to build and was ready for occupancy in early 2020. When quizzed on his favourite aspect of the project, David talks about the ‘feeling’ it evokes: ‘everything is open and airy…you walk through the space and keep getting surprised, the layers keep revealing themselves. Eventually you walk out to that pavilion and it's just stunning.’

He adds the owners, who were ‘an absolute delight to build for’, were thrilled with their holiday home and are already planning a new project with Bau Group – which David considers the ultimate reward for a job well done.

‘You go through quite the journey from start to finish when building a home like this,’ he says. ‘We love the experience, and we love the collaboration, and then to see the finished results, and people living in these finished homes, it’s very satisfying.’

Woorak House at a glance

Builder

BAU Group

Designer

Megan Burns of CM Studio

Location

Sydney

Materials:

  • Roofing: Nulok Roofing System
  • Walls: plasterboard; Marrakesh plaster
  • Flooring: Oak timber, Insight Flooring; Aren Blanco stone, raw sawn limestone, Onsite Tiles
  • Screening: Rosewood timber
  • Kitchen/dining: Oak veneer, Saltwater Joinery; Winning Appliances; custom-made banquet seating, Mr and Mrs White
  • Bathrooms: Moroccan handmade floor tiles, Surface gallery; brass fittings and fixtures, Astral Walker
  • Decking: Rosewood timber.

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