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Brick beauty

Photos: David Sievers

Brick beauty

Photos: David Sievers
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The clever use of brick and its cohesive pairing with other materials is what gives this two-storey Adelaide project an air of sophistication.

Laura Valic


‘Minimalism’ in modern architecture appeals to many for the way it can produce calm, almost meditative, settings, highlighting the form of a building or allowing attention to be drawn to what lies beyond it. Compared to its unashamedly exuberant opposite (maximalism), it’s a design style free from excessive features or competing colours, materials and textures.

But minimalism from a builder’s perspective often doesn’t equate with small or simple. Just ask HIA member Cosi Cavallaro of Cavallaro Building Services. He recently completed a custom-built project in the Adelaide suburb of Netherby that demonstrates a bold, minimalist response to its site – a 920-square -metre block one street over from the grassy woodland of Waite Conservation Reserve.

An Adelaide project designed by Cosi Cavallaro of Cavallaro Building Services
‘The walls in the four bedrooms upstairs aren’t square but angled to allow light and ventilation’

Cosi says architectural homes, such as this speckled brick and aluminium clad project, always look amazing when they’re finished, but they take a lot of time, effort and expertise to get them right. ‘The challenge is trying to achieve what the architect has envisioned and determining the skillset needed in order to build it,’ he says. ‘It’s not for everybody.’

With more than 40 years’ experience in the industry in both commercial and residential building, Cosi has had a diverse career since he started as a standout carpentry apprentice with AV Jennings in 1977. The challenge of complex building work is what motivates him and is why he steered his business, established in 2007, toward high-end homes in Adelaide’s affluent suburbs.

Architect Chris Rowlands of RAD Studio had worked with Cavallaro Building previously and was interested in collaborating again on his latest design called ‘A House On Two Stones’.

Intended to ‘embrace the relationship with nature rather than its suburban context’, Chris says the two-storey home evolved from two monolithic blocks lodged into the site with a canopied upper level cantilevered in between.

A black metal balustrade reaches to the ceiling to screens off the stairs
Adding a touch of artistry to a large west-facing wall is a fluctuating brick pattern

‘Simple folds in the facade allow the building to capture gully breezes, passively ventilating the house,’ he explains. ‘The external rigidity of the architecture is softened by its natural contexts and subtle moments of natural forms.’

When it came to the construction of A House On Two Stones, there was plenty to appeal to Cosi’s love of a challenge. Despite its straight-edged facade, very little is square and straightforward once you step through the enormous timber entry door.

‘There are a lot of elements to make the house look clean and neat,’ Cosi explains. ‘The doors don’t have architraves; the walls in the four bedrooms upstairs aren’t square but angled to allow light and ventilation; and the ceilings are square set. There are no layers anywhere.’

This meant extra care had to be taken to ensure a zero margin of error. ‘It’s a huge workload to achieve all those details because you don’t have any tolerances,’ he says. ‘If your doors aren’t plumb, for example, you will see because you can’t hide it.’

These small details ensure a streamlined, minimalist look, but it’s three key materials that generate the home’s visual wow factor: a brick blend, black Colorbond cladding and correlating vertical aluminium slats.

HIA member Cosi Cavallaro embraced the philosophy of minimalism
COLORBOND® Monument Matte customised cladding provides a real impact

‘The selection of brickwork provides a mottled appearance that shares a similar appearance to the trunks of the surrounding gum trees,’ Chris explains.

The bricks from Austral’s San Selmo range are a dominant feature of the lower-level exterior and outdoor entertaining area at the rear of the property. Here, the lighter whitewashed tones intersect with the curved concrete borders around the garden beds and in the beautifully crafted ‘v’ columns, which appear to lightly suspend the canopy above.

Adding a touch of artistry to a large west-facing wall is a fluctuating brick pattern: ‘We created some interest by laying the bricks flat around the other way and [jutting] out, giving it a completely different design on that wall,’ Cosi explains.

Dark intermittent bricks tie in with the expanses of black cladding, structural steel and the dramatic batten screening that extends out around the second storey from east to west. All public spaces on the lower level have a northern aspect to the garden, with the aluminium slats generating an elegant display of shadows day or night while offering sun relief in summer and sunlight in winter.

‘The brickwork provides a mottled appearance similar to the trunks of the surrounding gum tree’
The challenge was trying to achieve what the architect envisioned

Out of all the intriguing features found in this home, Cosi says the sleek black kitchen is his favourite. Facing the backyard, it soaks up natural light during the day thanks to glazed full height windows and doors, while a replicated version of the exterior slats extends up like a large grille behind it.

‘The kitchen has a bench that runs past the staircase with a black metal balustrade that reaches to the ceiling to screen off the stairs. The effect looks awesome,’ he says.

The curves found in the concrete plinth and streamlined black joinery in the living room helps to soften the severity of the house’s external form. It’s the combination of all these details that illustrate the power of the design and the skill of the craftspeople who brought it all to life.

‘You walk past the front door in awe and when you keep walking through the different spaces, they all have a connection and element to other areas in the house,’ Cosi says. ‘Its position, gardens and pond set the mood straight away. Then you’re in for a wonderful journey as you travel throughout the place.’

Finished around early 2021, Cosi says the client was thrilled with the unique result of their new house. With a mutual respect shared between architect, client and builder, Cosi says they were ensured a successful outcome. ‘The beauty of this project is we had a good relationship with the client and architect all the way through. That makes all the difference,’ he says.

A House on Two Stones at a glance


Cavallaro Building Services


Chris Rowlands, RAD Studio





Published on 16 March 2023

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