New House Casuarina, NSW
The experience of being at the beach was the inspiration for Banksia House by Aphora Architecture, a new house on the coast of northern New South Wales. The design evokes the sensations of walking the back dunes of the beach, experiencing the muffled sounds and dappled light of the foliage before stepping toward the ocean and into the open to enjoy the light and the meeting of sea and sky. This same quality of emerging from a low landscape of foliage into a larger spatial volume, with an opportunity to look back toward the sheltered space, is evident in Banksia House. Located just a few metres from the sand, the house occupies a corner block. Its street-facing edges are defined by a perimeter wall that allows a flow from one edge of the block to the other and demarcates indoor and outdoor space, enclosure and volume. The homeowners – a retired couple – can move from the sheltered western edge through to the expanse of the courtyard, all the while maintaining carefully choreographed views of the surrounding vegetation and sky and enjoying the sounds of the beach and birdsong.
Named after the remarkable coastal plant species that are admired for their resilience and their ability to thrive in tough coastal conditions, Banksia House is nestled behind the banksia and she-oak that border Casuarina beach. References to the species throughout the house remind the homeowners of their connection to nature, from the colour of the blockwork – chosen for its similarity to the underside of the banksia leaf – to the visual connections afforded by the house’s apertures. Beneath the raked roof, the tinted glass of the clerestory windows in the living room, kitchen and main bedroom has a reflective quality, mirroring the surrounding foliage by day and adopting a lantern-like quality by night.
The main entrance is beneath a blockwork portico, which juts out at a chamfered angle and casts protective shade from the strong northern sun. Arrival is highlighted by a thoughtfully detailed copper mailbox and front door. The palette of materials acknowledges the harsh coastal climate: the copper will tarnish and gain character as the years progress, while the blockwork and
charred timber cladding lend the house a low-maintenance finish that will weather the forces of nature. The walls are built using hand-selected blocks, while a raked joint makes the interior walls lively. The base layer of darker blocks, positioned below the datum line, has a honed finish with exposed aggregate, evoking thoughts of beach pebbles collecting on the sand at low tide. The use of the concrete blocks is at once a contrast and a complement to this coastal setting: their solidity is a counterpoint to the shifting sands, yet their colour and texture is in synergy with the beach.
Internally, New Guinea rosewood has been used on the doors and windows, spotted gum has been employed for structural elements and blackbutt has been chosen for the kitchen cabinetry for its consistent, light finish. A continuous stainless steel bench in the kitchen balances the timber and rests upon the cabinetry with a three-millimetre exposed edge. The attention to detail within the house is delightful. The joinery and the overlaying of materials has been carefully considered not only to highlight their individual qualities but also to draw attention to their necessity and use. Sliding timber screens secure the house yet allow it to breathe, offering the homeowners the ability to manually tune the house according to the prevailing winds and temperatures. This diaphanous quality is so important in the northern New South Wales climate as it enables homeowners to contract and expand the living areas and adjust apertures according to the weather.
Three guest bedrooms and bathrooms inhabit the house’s western edge, divided from the living and main bedroom by a central hallway. The rooms enjoy privacy, catch the prevailing breeze and open to individual garden spaces. Sliding doors, often associated with poor sound insulation, are cleverly utilized within the masonry wall profile to create an effective acoustic seal when closed. This planning arrangement allows the house many configurations so that it can comfortably accommodate a family, a couple primarily inhabiting the front of the house or even, with the provision of a separate entrance, a second autonomous residence at the front in which the main bedroom, bathroom and a small kitchenette are separated from the rest of the house.
The simple but effective design of a roof that is raked up to the east facilitates the delightful play of morning light across the interior. The main bedroom, nestled in the north-eastern corner behind the perimeter wall, capitalizes on the operable sliding screens and clerestory windows, which connect the room’s occupants with ocean breezes and sounds. Lying in bed, the homeowners can see the night sky and tree canopy and listen to local birdlife and the resident owl.
Banksia House is a residence that works hard yet does so effortlessly. It is a design that is apt for living by the coast, delivering a diverse quality of space that visually draws in the surrounding vegetation, breeze and coastal light to forge a connection to the beach and frame the beauty of living among such an inspiring natural environment.
Roofing: Lysaght Spandek in Colorbond Ultra ‘Windspray’ External walls: Eco Timber charred timber cladding in Cutek CD50 oil; National Masonry Designer block in honed ‘Glacier’ and ‘Platinum’ Internal walls: Plasterboard in Dulux ‘Vivid White’
Doors and Windows: Custom
New Guinea rosewood doors and windows by Timberware Flooring: Polished concrete Lighting: Marz Designs Terra
0 wall light; Lumil Hat pendant; custom lights by Caribou
Kitchen: Fisher and Paykel appliances; Abey tapware and sanitaryware; Blackbutt joinery; stainless steel benchtop Bathroom: Abey Poco tapware in brushed nickel and Byron
Matt Clearstone bath and basins; Fibonacci Stone Abstrakt terrazzo; Artedomus Elba benchtops and splashback
External elements: Eco Outdoor Endicott crazy paving