Made entirely from brick with subtle earthy striations, this home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches sits easily within its coastal landscape. The owners, a pair of empty-nesters, had lived in the existing 1980s house for some years. Their brief for the new home was fairly succinct: “to be part of nature and a place that would last 100 years”, says architect Rob Brown, director of Casey Brown Architecture, who worked closely on this project with his life and business partner, furniture designer Caroline Casey. “The choice of brick was the starting point for the design. “The exterior bricks pick up on the hues of the local landscape, from blacks and reds through to tones of grey,” he adds.
In contrast to the multi-level home’s exterior, the interior features walls of white brick sourced from Venice, Italy. Each one is slightly different, adding to the home’s overall texture and varying the play of light. “Our project architect, Toshio Ozaki, first came across these in the Austral Bricks showroom. They were the perfect fit for this project, particularly given that each one is handmade,” says Rob.
There are panoramic coastal views to the south, but the northern aspect is focused on the garden, which features a giant Norfolk pine. A series of terraces lead to the dramatic entry hall with curved brick ceiling that evokes an aqueduct. To draw natural light into this ground-floor passage, Rob and his team included a highlight window above the front door.
On the top floor, several skylights are set into a cathedral ceiling clad in Manilkara bidentata (also known as bulletwood); the effect is beautifully theatrical as the light washes over the walls in the main bedroom suite.
Downstairs, the quality of light is different but no less alluring. The ground floor contains two studies, the kitchen/dining and main living area, which opens to a terrace. The joinery throughout, designed by Caroline and made by Fine Earth Joinery, is made from bulletwood to tie in with the timber ceilings. On the lower-ground floor there are two guestrooms (the children are still welcome to stay!) and a multipurpose living area with kitchenette.
Linking the three levels is a striking limestone staircase with decorative brass balustrades designed by Caroline. “The design cue for these balustrades came from the topography of the headlands. Each rail is orchestrated to present as a ‘rhythm of different notes’,” says Rob.
The use of exposed brick throughout helps the interior and outdoor areas merge seamlessly. The main living area, for example, becomes one with the adjacent terrace simply by retracting the oversize glass doors. The Grigio Perla limestone flooring in this space also extends to the terrace, enhancing the relaxed ambience.
“Given the location, brick was by far the best choice of material,” says Rob. “We were the first to use these bricks in Australia. They’re all handmade, like the house itself.”
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