INTO THE LIGHT
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.
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.