The client had just purchased the site, a small but stunningly located oceanfront property with panoramic views of the Pacific, when we happened to meet at a party. As I had just gone out on my own after many years as Associate Director at a successful mid-size firm I didn't have much to show that I could prove as "my own". After a detailed selection process the client chose to engage me for the design of their new house, probably based on a lot of trust in my ability and the fact that we got on very well on a personal level. Throughout the project this good personal rapport proved to be a very important factor in the successful shaping of the final product, the process being characterised by constructive criticism, unquestioned support and trust where it was needed.
Designing on small site in this wonderful location brought with it major challenges: Provision of views from as many points in the house as possible; A natural and self-evident path of movement throughout the house and a strong connection between the spaces and levels despite the almost terrace-house-like configuration; and the bringing in of lots of natural light despite the fact that the house was east facing and had no direct northern solar access. Despite the potential impact on views from properties in the second and third row we managed to get a three level house approved, taking advantage of the steep sloping site.
The house is designed around an internal courtyard, providing light and cross ventilation to all levels. To the east (the view and breeze) the house opens up almost completely to large decks, with the sliding doors designed to allow many different configurations for the internal-external connection of spaces. A generous open plan living/Dining/Kitchen area at entry level is the central focus of the family's life, with the children's areas located below and the parent's Master bedroom above. A series of stairs, including the open, light main stairs running across the short length of the site, connect all levels effortlessly. Centerpiece on the upper level is the freestanding bath tub in the middle of the room, allowing arguably the best views from any bathtub anywhere. A large, curved sliding door closes off the otherwise open Bedroom area for acoustic and visual privacy. The lower floor is the kid's realm, accommodating three large bedrooms and a large play area with direct access to the lower garden and pool. The main, middle level has a large kitchen, designed to not look too much like a kitchen if not in use, a dining area in its own protruding pocket and the main seating area under a large, curved void. Having been handed very strict height limitations by Council the Void creates a generosity in spatial experience that lifts and enlarges the entire house. Some design decisions, made on site after, for instance, experiencing the play of light through holes in the roof formwork as it was laid, resulted in design features that now pretty much define the house, such as the 3 skylights over the void and the "holey" wall to the garage.