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8 November 2018

One Out of the Box

Described whimsically by it’s owner as ‘straight out of 1970s Palm Springs’, this house by architect Dominic Glamuzina looks as if it has been picked up out of a different country from a different era, and dropped into the middle of suburban Westmere.


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Unlike many of this suburb’s stock of grand old villas that stand at their front gates shouting, look at me, look at me, this sublime, modern family home displays a little more humility.

Instead it hunkers down at the rear of its site, and occupies roughly the same footprint as the State house that originally stood here.

This initial impression of modesty and simplicity belies a fastidious attention to detail that’s only really appreciated on close inspection. The little yellow post box that greets your arrival, for example, is in the shape of a Monopoly house and sits perfectly placed on its own pedestal by the entry gate. And that’s just the beginning.

The approach to the house through the front garden is ordered. Guided by low, concrete-rendered walls and flanked by two palm trees that were saved during construction, the curl of the concrete path gives way to the curve of a brick wall as it coaxes you towards the impressive, brass-finished front door.

The home is owned by Natalie Parke and her husband Gerry, and is shared with their two children, six-year-old daughter Cassie and three-year-old son Oren, Basil the cat and a dog called Benny.

“We never wanted a showy house, or anything grand,” says Natalie, inviting me in. “We just wanted a house that was easy to live in, and that we could enjoy – and it certainly delivers on that.

As we walk down the hallway, Natalie can see that I am pre-occupied by the brick walls that comprise the majority of the walls in her house. “Aren’t they lovely? The bricks are laid slightly erratically so that they catch the light and make the walls look pixelated. I like the way it does that,” she says.

Natalie’s tells me that her brief to architect Dominic Glamuzina was for lots of different spaces, as she is not a fan of open-plan living. Why? “Because, with open-plan, everyone has to be in the same space, together. I like a good bit of segregation,” she smiles. “If there’s just one, giant space, then you can’t use it properly, because everyone’s trying to do stuff at the same time in the same space… and that just doesn’t work for me. I wanted usable spaces, where we could still all be connected, doing stuff in the same house, just not in the same space. Does that make sense?”

Counting out the rooms, Natalie says there are eleven, if you include the loft space above their bedroom, twelve if you count the courtyard – which you certainly should, as it is a very useable space for much of the year. In fact, there are three outdoor spaces in this home. Each one can be connected or closed off to the rest of the house, giving a myriad of options, depending on the weather or the occasion.

Not unlike the neighbouring villas, this house has a long corridor that runs down its spine, connecting the front door to the back garden, collecting rooms as it passes through. Unlike a villa, however, the bedrooms here are all at the rear of the home, and can be effectively closed off thanks to a full-height door/wall that slides away into a wall cavity. “It’s perfect for when you’re entertaining and want to shut off the kid’s bedrooms,” she says.

Sliding walls, doors and windows are a recurring theme throughout this house, and it’s the concept of these space-saving room dividers that make it such a versatile place to live in. “It’s all about creating multi-functional spaces,” continues Natalie as we walk into the office space at the front of the house that doubles as a fourth guest bedroom, thanks to a built-in Murphy bed that folds neatly up into the wall.

“We also like walls,” she says. “One of our other requests to Dom was that we wanted lots a walls, because we have a lot of art.” So, a second corridor, doubling back on the first, leads down to the family bathroom and Oren’s bedroom. Both of the children’s bedrooms are doubles, with built-in robes and lots of natural light. Cassie’s bedroom has the bonus of opening out onto the back garden, with its raised vege beds and garden shed.

As it should be, the master bedroom and ensuite is one of feature spaces of the home, with its pop-up roof and loft space, accesses by a beautifully handcrafted Wenge wood ladder that slides effortlessly around the room on a curved rail above our heads. “I love this ladder. If we could take it with us we would, but we can’t, it belongs here,” smiles Natalie. “We deliberately kept the bedrooms on the small side. We don’t live in our bedrooms, so why make them big? We wanted to use the space that we had available for the rooms that we spent most of our time in,” she concludes.

Natalie’s background is in fashion and advertising, but has recently moved into bespoke residential design, setting up her own design studio, Dessein Parke. “Because we’ve got two little kids, I only take on a maximum of two jobs at any one time. I’m very small and niche, which suits me.”

As we walk around the house, it is evident that a huge amount of crafting and fine detailing has gone into the making of this home. It’s raw, yet very precise. It is also a very tactile house, with a lot of thought having been put into the things that are touched, like the bespoke forged-brass door handles, the raised grain on the dark-stained wooden island in the kitchen, the oiled Wenge ladder in the master bedroom, and the irregularly laid, and white-pained brickwork that you can’t help running your fingers along as you walk around the house.

“Dom designs really complex houses,” says Natalie. “So when you’re building a home like this, where everything is custom and highly detailed, it’s essential that you have a group of builders and craftspeople that have a passion for what they’re doing, who ‘get’ what you are trying to do and who are working towards the same outcome.” With this house Natalie says they were lucky enough to have that team with them all the way, and the results speak for themselves.

It’s true, there is little that’s conventional about this house, yet it instantly feels homely – not in a grandma and granddad kind of way, but in the way you could imagine yourself living here. And that’s part of its charm – the adaptability and the personality of its rooms and spaces, and the endless possibilities that this flexibility evokes.

Natalie says she’d like to see the house to go to someone who’s really going to live in it and enjoy it, because that’s what it’s for… “Someone with kids, who loves to have parties, and who’s going to thrash it,” she laughs.

 

View the full listing here

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