Suzanne Hunt Architect
Suzanne Hunt Architect
Margaret River, Australia
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the aboriginal lands that we work and play, the Wadandi people of the Noongar Nation their elders, past, present, and emerging. We acknowledge that aboriginal sovereignty was never ceded.
Many people dream of having a weekend that will one-day ‘morph’ into a permanent home. For this couple, who had been living in Sydney for over a decade before returning to Perth, the idea was to have a semi-permanent home in the country that would complement their cottage in the city.
So, when this steep, tree-filled Margaret River bush block – a three-hour drive south of Perth – became available, it was an opportunity too good to refuse.
The site had several complex constraints and opportunities for the SHA team to consider and balance, including the Bushfire Assessment Level (BAL) of the Flame zone (FZ), the local planning parameters – setbacks, building envelope, and building requirements – for a site without mains water or sewerage and limited power.
As part of the approval process, local rangers camped over three nights on the site to ensure that the existing habitat was not a breeding ground for Carnaby Black Cockatoo’s or Ring Tail Possums.
Sensitive clearing of undergrowth planting and some younger trees was required to protect local fauna and flora and achieve a BAL 29 fire rating to be able to build on the site.
The established 30 – 150yr+ old Jarrah, Karri, and Marri trees and the site’s original topography – all the things that had attracted the owners in the first place – were retained. An existing simple timber cottage built by the previous owners has been retained and is now used as an Airbnb.
The new single-level, timber-framed house designed for aging in place was clad externally in the fire-resistant timber species Spotted Gum.
The weatherboard panels have been laid vertically and routed in an uneven pattern to reflect the varying diameters of the trunks of the surrounding trees, as have the vertically designed aluminum framed windows, ensuring the house nestles quietly into the landscape.
The only other exterior materials used are Corten steel panels that clad and frame the entry, BlueScope Colourbond roof sheeting, and the stunning local Margaret River stone fireplace and chimney.
The home is orientated with a long axis, primarily east-west, and conceived as two bedroom wings that are connected by a central living hub – service core large garage – and outdoor entertaining areas to the north and south.
The owner's private wing soars above the ground into the tree canopies, accommodating a relaxing snug, main bedroom with views to the north and east and an ensuite – with an outdoor shower on a floating private deck.
The secondary wing to the east accommodates two bedrooms and a shared bathroom for guests. Each wing can be closed off by large sliding doors when not in use to save energy and provide privacy.
Designed for a couple who love entertaining friends and family, the central living hub accommodates a kitchen with a generous island bench and extensive built-in joinery, a central dining table, and a cozy lounge around a wood fire with tall narrow windows to the west, capturing the full extent of the stunning natural landscape..
The endpoint of all distant views from inside the house captures this majestic. Generous outdoor areas were conceived as extensions of the main living hub.
To ensure the views over the valley are enjoyed, there are large sliding doors to a north-eastern deck as well as a more protected courtyard to the south-west that has a pizza oven and a built-in barbeque (benefiting from the cooling southerly breezes in the warmer months).
The television series The Good Life (circa 1975) was certainly discussed when SHA was designing Treehouse. Our clients – both avid gardeners and one an excellent cook wanted a home that they could age in and live off the land.
An amazing vegetable patch provides produce for the two and their many friends, along with local produce and seafood they catch off the local beach.
In addition, they have planted over 2000 local native species to revegetate the site. The landscape design by Damien Pericles integrates new natural rock creeks to channel water around the home on the sloping site.
The environmental sustainability of this house was vitally important for the couple and included a 90kl water tank, ATU for sewage, 12kW of solar PV with batteries, passive solar ventilation, and orientation. They have the capacity to live off-grid and do in-the-shoulder seasons.
While our wonderful clients had initially envisaged a considerably larger house, their relatively modest budget delivered them a slightly smaller footprint, but with everything they were looking for. They are thrilled with the result and are spending far more time in the southwest than they originally planned for. The Good Life it is!