Houses should capture the personality and interests of their clients. This can certainly be seen in a large new house at Kangaroo Valley, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney. Designed for a family who operate outdoor education company Southbound Adventures, it’s more likely to see them on bikes, climbing mountains or exploring rugged terrain than criss-crossing city lanes.
Set on 28 hectares of undulating terrain and picturesque escarpments, the owners used the fairly basic 1970s brick house as their weekender. But when devastating bushfires went through the property in 2019/20 and flattened the rudimentary house, it was time to think of a building a new home and a separate loft-style style building, one that could be rented out on weekends.
With the brief to create a weekender for others, it’s considerably larger than had the home only been designed for the owners – who now refer to the loft-style detached dwelling as their ‘shed’.
The two dwellings, with the main house being over 500 square metres, is constructed in rammed earth, stone and zinc cladding. And while the loft has one bedroom, a kitchen and living areas, the main home includes five bedrooms (ideal for a couple of families to share) and two living areas. Spread over three levels in line with the fall of the land, there is a television rumpus room at ground level, along with a bunk room, a separate pinball room and a cellar. And on the middle level, there’s the kitchen and a dining/living area with large pivotal glass windows that frame the views to the two dams nearby.
While most of the house is new, there are elements from the former brick house that appear as well as fallen trees from the fire that were site. Rammed earth walls, up to a metre thick, anchor the home to the site, as do the chunky timber beams expressed on the large terrace adjoining the kitchen.
As accommodation had to be generous for larger groups, there are four bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom and direct access to their own outdoor terraces - one of which features a Zen-style-garden for privacy.
And for those looking for a palatial suite for that unique weekend experience, the main bedroom suite occupies the entire top level, benefitting from celestial-style windows that allow one to wake with the morning sunlight. And on cooler days, there’s a fireplace in the main bedroom to sit by and relax.
Given this house had to provide more than simply a luxe retreat in the bush, there’s also a swimming pool and a firepit that allows for alfresco dining from one of the covered terraces. Following the client’s brief for natural materials, there’s an abundant use of concrete, including an in situ concrete island bench in the kitchen along with timber and rammed earth, celebrating the sense of the outdoors, inside as much as in the bush.