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A Piece of Engineering Brilliance

It would appear that this Clayfield project was destined to be. Architect Shane Marsh described the way in which the collaboration between builder Bruce Muggeridge and the property owner came about as something that ‘never happens’.

An engineering school friendship, a site and a few beers were coupled with a great design and a very trusting client. It sounds like one of those projects where everything simply fell into place right from the get-go.

Over the course of four to five months, Bruce engaged with the team to get the project off the ground and the end result was everything they had wished for and more.

With the clients being inspired by architects Isay Weinfield and Richard Neutra, this was never going to be a traditional, ordinary house. In fact, the pavilion at the rear of the building is a work of engineering genius, according to Shane.

The desire was to play with depth and shadow – with a limited palette of materials and colour – but with plenty of space and light. This decision was taken so there would be no design detail or material trying to compete with another, especially the Baw Baw dry stone walling. Natural stone was one of the client’s loves and, as such, featured predominantly at the front of the building.

Shane revealed that by pairing the other materials and tones back, they were able let the stone be; without having it dominate the space. He even tweaked some of the colours within the home to better compliment the natural tones of the stone.

While the building is large on footprint, the entrance to the property is far subtler. This offers the welcome surprise of openness and scale as guests venture inside for the first time.

The client was keen to get the design of the contemporary kitchen, dining and living area just right; sometimes tricky to accomplish in such a simple, clean-lined space. Cleverly, Shane created a butler’s kitchen hidden behind the timber cabinetry of the ‘presentation’ kitchen to keep the minimalist look. With no TV in sight, the living and dining room takes advantage of the expansive space and the connection to the two gardens on either side of the building.

Off the main living area are what the architect describes as ‘two wings’. The first wing has been designed to be deliberately heavy, in order to make it feel low and non-dominating; an almost utilitarian part of the house. It comprises of the garage, wine cellar, powder room and is the entrance to both the main house and the office, which is the second wing.

A stairway leads to a separate office, purposely designed so that the client doesn’t have to travel to work. With meeting rooms, a kitchenette, generous light and impressive views to the city, the staff is provided with a exceptional environment to work in. Privacy to the rest of the house, including the master bedroom, is generated by the use of timber screens which link back into the material of the façade.

“If you apply a certain set of rules, you end up with great architecture,” Shane explains, as he says all the basics of architecture were applied to the design of this house. He regards this design as nothing over the top, yet on the surface it could appear over the top.

Shane believes that, in many ways, architects dictate how people live their lives due to the design of the spaces. The simple idea of removing the TV changes the way you live. This project had a very different set of client requirements to many of the homes Shane is used to designing, which has had such a positive influence on the result.

The palette of materials isn’t huge, the configuration is relatively simple, but it has resulted in big, grandiose spaces conducive to modern living.

Photography: Anna Wilshire