The design process for a home typically synthesises the site's demands, client's requirements and architect's skill. Architect Robyn Bilkey had only two out of three to play with when she designed this high-end house tucked down a Parnell driveway.
"It was hard without a client to interact with," she admits, "but the site is so special, the environment really spoke to me."
Robyn and developer husband, Alan, had
a vested interest in creating a quality house: it will soon be their neighbour. That gave Robyn the rare chance to design both houses, protecting each other's sun, views and privacy.
The north-facing views across Parnell to the city and waterfront are appealing. But it's the covenanted bush in the foreground that Robyn enthuses about. "It's so rare for inner-city living", she says, noting the tui and wood pigeons nearby, plus the huge, exotic trees that allow winter sun and summer shade.
Working with the sloping site and northerly aspect, Robyn designed a contemporary house which she calls "a timeless classic". "It won't date," she explains, "but it has a strong and interesting appearance that fits into this beautifully treed environment."
She composed upper floor volumes in
dark-stained vertical cedar, anchored by
a vertically-striated concrete base and easy-care native landscaping.
Robyn's years of residential design experience informed her smart planning.
"I focused on things everyone wants: indoor/outdoor living, versatile spaces for different uses," she says.
The solid construction includes double-glazing, heat pumps, concrete floors for sound insulation, solar water heating. The interior palette echoes the outdoors, with smoky grey carpets, dark-stained Tasmanian oak floors and subtle taupe walls.
The versatile planning is demonstrated right from the entrance. Off the lobby, a spacious, sunny room overlooking the bush is wired for media but could become a home office or formal living room. That second living space complements the bright main living area opening to the north. Subtle zoning of the space invites multiple uses, cosying up by the gas fire or reading in a sunny bay window near the dining area.
Both zones open on to what could be the third living space - a sunny, sheltered deck, protected from the weather by a Louvretec roof and gas heater. Steps to a neat lawn provide
a children's play area - that is, if they're not exploring the bush. "We're surrounded by parks here," Robyn points out, having lived across the street with her children. "We could walk to school and kindy, even uni later on."
Robyn has delivered an elegant kitchen fit-out with dark-stained timber framing lacquered white cabinets, with Miele appliances and
a plumbed-in fridge. "The big laundry next door is designed to be used as a scullery, too,"
A large ground-floor bedroom with en suite
is another versatile space for guests, granny
or teenager. The glamorous wallpaper in the guest powder room is echoed in the stairwell, which is topped by a handy study nook overlooking the bush.
The upstairs master bedroom enjoys the sunny view, but is protected from the neighbours by sandblasted glass around the Juliet balcony. Through a generous walk-in wardrobe, dramatic smoky tiles emphasise the high-end bathroom fixtures. A sculptural tub in the family bathroom serves two more spacious bedrooms, both with large, fitted wardrobes.
Even the garage has future possibilities. Robyn positioned windows so it can be partially walled off for gym or workshop, or remain open to park four cars. "This house is its own little oasis," says Robyn, "but so close to the action of Parnell or the French markets."By Joanna Smith