The location is stunning: on the crown of a hill with 270 degree views over NSW's Kangaroo Valley to the north, east and west, and surrounded by state forest providing privacy and tranquility.
However when it came to building on the site, there were several challenges for architect Duncan Sanby, from Utz-Sanby, not least that it was a true green field site: no services connected, no driveway and several possible positions for the house on the top of the site. And Duncan came across his first ever, and angry, red-belly black snake.
His brief was to create a rural retreat to accommodate and entertain large numbers of guests as well as be a comfortable home for two people. The house was to be robust , low maintenance and take advantage of the best aspect and views. The pool was to be located close enough to the house to feel connected but not to interfere with views or privacy.
"The bushfire requirements were very stringent and required careful siting of the house to provide adequate asset protection zones, a large static water supply for fire fighting and non-combustible materials to comply with RFS guidelines," Duncan said.
After several site meetings with the client to determine the best position and height for the house to maximize views, Duncan set about designing a series of pavilions that interconnect to form a protected entrance courtyard on the southern side and open up to the dramatic views across the surrounding landscape to the north.
"The siting of the house allows each room to capture views and aspect and is linked around the centrally-positioned open-plan living room, with open fire, high ceilings and views across the pool to the valley beyond," Duncan said. The design also allows for the guest bedrooms to be separated from the master bedroom, study and workshop.
Duncan said his inspiration was simple agricultural building forms.
"Wool sheds and hay stores have a repeated structural frame that is expressed internally and the use of steel and corrugated steel cladding externally. The building was designed to be subservient to the landscape and semi-industrial in appearance," he said.
Being so isolated and exposed, the house was designed to be low-maintenance, robust and use passive environmental controls. There is solar-boosted hydronic heating in the floor, cross ventilation assisted by ceiling fans, an abundance of natural light, LED lighting throughout, as well as 150,000 litres of water storage and photo voltaic panels capable of generating 5 kilowatt hours of electricity.
"Because it can get quite cold heating was a major consideration. There is hydronic heating within the concrete slab throughout the house via solar tubes with a gas booster. In summer excess heat produced is directed to the spa and pool. High level windows and ceiling fans facilitate cooling during the summer months," Duncan said.
Despite the snakes, Duncan appreciated the opportunity the rural site provided to produce a building that works in harmony with its surrounds, compared to the limitations associated with urban sites.
"The client worked closely with us to ensure we delivered a house that was tailor-made for them. There was close collaboration between the client on all aspects of the design, selection of materials and the specification which meant there was great attention to detail and quality from all parties. The builder - locals Impeckable Constructions - had a great team and also worked collaboratively with all consultants and sub-contractors," Duncan said.