Louise and Bill White’s new house on what is both Yar­ra­wonga’s river­front and lake­side brims with light. Re­flec­tions from the wa­ter dance into their ex­cep­tional con­tem­po­rary liv­ing space.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Jamie Kronborg pho­tos Marc Bongers

Louise and Bill White’s new house on what is both Yar­ra­wonga’s river­front and lake­side brims with light.

THE play of wa­ter has been con­stant in the shared lives of Yar­ra­wonga’s Louise and Bill White.

Bill, a builder, was raised in New Zealand’s stun­ning Lakes Dis­trict.

From 1991 the pair es­tab­lished a highly suc­cess­ful be­dand- break­fast en­ter­prise in a cen­tury- old house in Sor­rento at the foot of the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, with its pier and view to­wards Queen­scliff on the western side of Port Phillip Bay.

They af­ter­wards let the busi­ness for 14 years, re­turn­ing to New Zealand for three, then trav­el­ling Aus­tralia for one and the world for six months, and build­ing and ren­o­vat­ing a num­ber of houses.

What they ex­pect will be the last of these was com­pleted a few months ago – a dis­tinc­tive, con­tem­po­rary two- storey home which brims with light from Lake Mul­wala – but Bill set aside his in­ten­tion to have a di­rect hand in its con­struc­tion.

The Whites in­stead chose Yar­ra­wonga pre­mium builder Lekeal to turn their ex­act­ing stan­dards to re­al­ity from plans the cou­ple drafted when they de­cided to sell their 1904 lime­stone- built ‘ Carmel’ in Sor­rento in spring 2014. “I didn’t re­ally mind where we set­tled,” said Bill. “Any­where with a bit of wa­ter would suit me.” They had come of­ten to the Mur­ray River to hol­i­day and to visit Louise’s sis­ter in Ba­rooga on the New South Wales bank of the river across from Co­bram, and took ad­van­tage of talks over their Sor­rento kitchen bench-top to de­fine a clear plan of the house from which they wanted to en­joy re­tire­ment. >>

They bought in Yar­ra­wonga a large, lake­side block of land with a northerly as­pect, sold the Sor­rento res­i­dence and ac­com­mo­da­tion busi­ness and moved to the North East in May last year, leas­ing a house in the town for 12 months while Lekeal built their new home.

“Our place at Sor­rento was a beau­ti­ful old house but it was dark, par­tic­u­larly at the front and es­pe­cially in the hall,” said Louise.

“Here we’re com­pletely the op­po­site – we seem to have gone over­board with light but it’s won­der­ful.” And it is an ex­cep­tional can­vas. Late af­ter­noon light floods the broad sweep of the seam­less liv­ing, din­ing and kitchen gallery which ex­tends at ground level on a north- south axis.

Seem­ing walls of glass – across the face of the res­i­dence and run­ning the stretch of the gallery kitchen and be­yond to a util­ity area – al­low into the house the play of wa­ter from the lake and from a bril­liant sap­phire- blue in- ground swim­ming pool.

A float­ing floor of black­butt Eu­ca­lyp­tus pilu­laris, laid down on the same com­pass, ac­cen­tu­ates the room’s length and on spare, neu­tral- toned walls the Whites have placed matched art­works that seem to sharpen the sense of space with fo­cussed ef­fect.

… Sin­u­ous blue and green art glass works, shown as a col­lec­tion…re-point the al­lu­sion to wa­ter…

The de­pic­tion of birds on flow­ered branches – pur­chased from a gallery in Bright – also blurs the dis­tinc­tion be­tween the nat­u­ral world with­out and the do­mes­tic world within.

In a wide, par­al­lel en­trance hall, from which an Aus­tralian hard­wood tim­ber stair­case fin­ished to repli­cate the black­butt floor rises to the up­per storey against the wall shared with the gallery, Louise has re­peated the fo­cal de­vice.

She has placed ex­quis­ite hand- made New Zealand glass at the hall’s blind turn.

The sin­u­ous blue and green works, shown as a col­lec­tion with a clear- glass vase against the neu­tral- toned wall, re- point the al­lu­sion to wa­ter. “The wall colour gives us great op­por­tu­nity,” Louise said. “I didn’t want to be fixed into think­ing that I could only dec­o­rate with some­thing of a par­tic­u­lar colour, or of limited range of colours, to fit into the house.

“The warm, neu­tral tone en­ables us to do some things dif­fer­ently than we could with our old Sor­rento house.”

The Mur­ray River’s pres­ence is also re­flected in the Yar­ra­wonga res­i­dence.

The gen­tle me­an­der­ing of the chan­nel, which forms the south­ern bound­ary of Lake Mul­wala, is sug­gested in a glass panel within the tim­ber- framed en­trance door.

A pat­tern on the face of in­te­rior doors across the house – from those which close off a large walk- in pantry with its handy sink from the liv­ing area gallery to the pair that front the linen press – also evokes the river’s sweep.

“While it’s sub­merged within the lake, we’ve got a river that’s about eight me­tres wide on the other side of the road,” Bill said.

“All of the boats run in front here and no mat­ter where you are sit­ting in the house, wher­ever you look, you have a view of the wa­ter.”

Louise said the pair had wanted to see and sense the wa­ter as much as pos­si­ble.

“From all of the liv­ing ar­eas we can see ei­ther the lake or the pool or both,” she said.

“Even to the point of build­ing a win­dow into his garage­work­shop, Bill can still look right through to the lake.

“We’re re­ally happy with the re­sult, thanks to our builders and great trades­men.”

The im­pres­sion of open­ness ex­tends through­out the house, for which the build took a lit­tle more than seven months.

There is a sec­ond bed­room of lib­eral scale with a sim­i­larly sized en suite bath­room fea­tur­ing a large, sheer glass shower screen, free of brac­ing, spe­cially cut to a shape of Bill’s de­sign, and heated towel rails and linen stor­age. >>

Nearby is a sep­a­rate laun­dry with spa­cious cup­boards and shelv­ing.

Along the hall to­wards the en­trance there is a third bed­room and then a study – with a view over the lake – which could be adapted as a fourth bed­room as needed.

Be­yond the can­tilevered stair­well the hall also has plen­ti­ful, closed stor­age in which plumb­ing and other util­ity ser­vices from the up­per storey run in a hid­den en­clo­sure.

The Whites chose a gas- fired hy­dronic heat­ing sys­tem for the house with the tem­per­a­ture pan­els placed be­hind skirt­ing boards, over­com­ing the visual price of fix­ing pan­els to the walls.

The sys­tem op­er­ates in sec­tions which can be iso­lated and the en­ergy source is also used for hot wa­ter sup­ply and cook­ing.

Bill said the first in­voice showed the op­er­at­ing cost was less than $ 5 per day.

For sum­mer the Whites have in­stalled evap­o­ra­tive ducted cool­ing.

Louise smiles as she leads the way up­stairs and into an open, in­for­mal liv­ing room which in­cludes a small kitchen and an ad­ja­cent pow­der room.

Ahead is a bal­cony with a sweep­ing view of the lake.

“We sit out­side nearly ev­ery evening on the bal­cony and watch the sun set across the wa­ter,” she said. “It’s very beau­ti­ful.” The late af­ter­noon light dances over the lake sur­face and teases into the room, mov­ing across com­fort­able arm­chairs, li­brary cases and an en­closed fire.

It does the same in the ad­join­ing master bed­room, which is open to the liv­ing room but screened from it by a false wall.

With the neu­tral colour re­peated, Louise and Bill have placed above the queen bed a clever paint­ing of the Sor­rento- Queen­scliff ferry at Sor­rento pier.

It is a sea- white, light- bright can­vas with navy and indigo shad­ows, cre­ated by an artist who stayed in their Sor­rento bed- and- break­fast.

“I al­ways wanted blue and white with this,” Louise said – and the flow­ered- stitched soft cush­ions on the bed ex­tend the colour- way. Be­hind the bed­room is a spa­cious en suite walk- in robe and bath­room with a free­stand­ing bath and sep­a­rate shower – again fea­tur­ing Bill’s brace- free sheer glass screen.

“We re­ally love the way it all seems to flow to­gether,” Louise said.

LAKE VIEW / The liv­ing area gallery takes clear ad­van­tage of the Mur­ray River and Lake Mul­wala. HAPPY / Louise and Bill White are de­lighted with their move to Yar­ra­wonga.

TOP / Art glass from New Zealand be­comes a shim­mer­ing fo­cal de­vice in the hall.

ABOVE / Light from the lake floods the en­trance.

BLUE / An apron of cool traver­tine sur­rounds a sap­phire- coloured swim­ming pool.

HEAVEN / A can­tilevered stairway rises from the spa­cious en­trance hall.

DAY’S END / Bill and Louise White watch the sun set­ting be­yond the wa­ter from their first storey bal­cony. LEFT / The kitchen shows the depth of the liv­ing area gallery de­sign.

CON­NEC­TION / The Whites’ links with New Zealand are re­flected in art­works.

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