Charles Wright of Palaestra – Hardy’s Bay House

Photography by Brett Boardman

This beautiful home adjoining Brisbane Water National Park was Gil Lovell’s second commissioning of local architect Charles Wright of Palaestra. The first was a tiny, award-winning holiday home which served its purpose for eight or so years, but with Gil spending more time on the Coast a more substantial home was needed.

The resulting home is a narrow, severe yet stylish mix of brick, black-butt cladding and corrugated steel, precisely implemented to compensate for, or take advantage of, the site’s features.

The house has spectacular views over bay and private jetty to the west, but is very exposed to the southwest. The solution was to construct solid and durable walls of brick to withstand Mother Nature and then nestle a softer, more open profile behind it, positioned perfectly to take advantage of those views within the shelter of the brick southwest face.

The north-facing part of the building is a warmer combination of expansive glass and stunning oiled blackbutt cladding, opening onto a sundrenched deck. A split two-part plan to the front of the dwelling not only provides privacy for these living areas with their large windows, it also allows for maximum sun penetration in what is a less than ideal orientation.

The rear of the home sees another change of skin. This side faces into the hill, tucked right under the treeline and is clad in corrugated steel. It’s an ideal material in this case, being low-maintenance in an area prone to damp and mould and, more importantly, fire resistant.

Architect Charles Wright has an impressive respect for the environment and feels a building should have minimal impact on its natural surroundings. Only one tree was removed for the building process and this has been stockpiled for firewood. As a keen sailor it is particularly satisfying for Charles that the home is virtually invisible from the water. A strong motivation in his design process is the belief that the dwelling should be subordinate to the site and in this case the topography has been very much retained, with groundworks kept to a bare minimum.

Inside the home the contrast with the exterior validates those outside finishes. The home is serene and sun-filled. Distinct areas of activity flow throughout, with changes of level marking the boundaries. The deeply rebated nook created by that jutting brick wall provides the perfect spot for a window seat, a favourite spot of Gil’s and perfect for watching spectacular coastal storms. Most walls are a warm white with ragged brick walls picked out in a soft grey. The floorboards are varnished black-butt which beautifully reflects the sunlight.

The living room is modest but feels spacious and light-filled. Built-in storage keeps furnishings to a minimum. Gil’s colourful artworks, warm-hued fabrics and a fireplace make this a cosy space without detracting from the waterview through the trees.

A small flight of stairs leads to the kitchen and dining room. The latter sits in the area between the main wing and the master bedroom wing of the two-part front plan. This is an almost conservatory-like space, with glass doors and decking to front and rear. The rear deck is the perfect place for the bbq. With the doors thrown open it creates an outdoor dining experience.

The kitchen features a demarkation of deep red on the island bench and pantry doors. Fittings and appliances are sleek, symmetrical and fuss-free.

Tucked behind the kitchen is a laundry and small bathroom plus a guest bedroom. A staircase to the rear of the kitchen leads to a second guest bedroom and small study. In the stairwell Charles has indulged his love of seafaring and created a small intimate space with ply clad walls. Small horizontal windows do the job of portholes, revealing glimpes of sky and trees as you climb. And to ensure you climb slowly, a bookcase has been cleverly fitted into the interior wall, once again minimising clutter throughout the home.

The master bedroom occupies its own wing across the deck from the living room. It feels self-contained but is accessed from the main part of the building. This part of the home is the opposite of the brick section, light and playful, with it’s tiny elevated balcony for sitting, with legs dangling, enjoy the sun and the view. The room is a small space designed to be intimate and calming. A rear feature wall anchors the space which contains only the bare essentials. A door to the side accesses a walkway which leads to a small dressing area and generous bathroom. Again, life’s necessities are cleverly hidden from view to maintain clean lines and the tranquility of the space.

This is a home of considerable style and practicality with impressive ‘green’ credentials. Louvres and clerestory windows provide cross-ventilation, and walls and ceiling are insulated, ensuring this is an extremely passive house. The home also sits on top of 30 000 litres of water storage. This is used for the garden, toilets and laundry, with water efficient taps and plumbing throughout. The timber cladding is sustainable plantation grown hardwood which meets Category 3 Flame Zone fire requirements. And just to be sure, an emergency fire sprinkler system has been fitted, also utilising the water storage.

Landscaping has been left to a minimum and incorporates natives which have low flammability and sandstone which was onsite in an old retaining wall.

This is a building imbued with confidence, hunching solidly against the elements and revelling in the beauty before it.


The “Treehouse”

Gils’ original holiday home occupies the lot adjoining her current home.  It was also designed by Charles Wright, a student at the time. The brief was for a playful bush retreat with an elevated prospect looking towards the water. It’s a very simple and modest floorplan with kitchen, bedroom, living area, sleep-out and bathroom. The sunroom is a design highlight with windows which drop to conceal in the wall cavity giving the feel of a treehouse. The bedroom is connected to the main building by a covered breezeway and downstairs there is a sleep-out which has been designed to invoke a feeling of camping. The kitchen is a divine creation from recycled timbers and the interior of the entire home is a glowing mix of oiled hardwood and ply.
Charles’ love of sailing can be felt in this building too. It’s not unlike standing on the prow of a ship when you gaze out to the water.
The “Treehouse” won Charles an award for Young Home Designer of the Year in 1994 and, of course, a further commission to build Gil’s second home.

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