Stumpy Gully House
markowitzdesign + Stavrias Architecture
Stavrias Architecture, markowitzdesign
Nicole Henderson, George Stavrias
Nepean Building Permits
J.D Lee Furniture, Marz Designs, Ross Gardam, Ross Thompson, Sabu Studio, Tide
This family house, located in the coastal hamlet of Balnarring on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is a considered approach designed to nestle sensitively into its village context—a direct riposte to the contextless and homogenous new developments driven by tree-change population shifts in regional Victoria.
Stumpy Gully House suggests a more sensitive way to engage with a site that is considerate of solar orientation, street frontage, and architectural form.
While newer houses in the street are sited full width with a minimum setback, Stumpy Gully House proposes an approach more consistent with older development patterns in Balnarring, offering a bushy frontage to the street.
Instead of neighboring developments' incessant double garage street frontage, a linear plan opens the entire house to the northern aspect along the side boundary rather than the western “back” yard.
This linear landscaped yard, featuring landscapes by Jo Ferguson, runs the full length of the house. Instead of the big Aussie backyard, it’s the big Aussie side yard.
The clients, a young growing family, were looking for a family home that would evolve to accommodate their family as it expanded, aged, and matured.
They wanted to be able to supervise young children while accommodating and allowing privacy separation as the children grew up and needed their own space.
The linear plan achieves this by linking a succession of living spaces that flow seamlessly into the northern outdoor landscape.
These spaces are punctuated by perpendicular timber-lined walls, which visually slip through the external northern glazed wall to create a series of internal and external privacy baffles.
These baffles enclose, demarcate, and screen views as you proceed along the linear plan to define different functional areas (front garden/backyard; main bedroom/living area/kids area/service area).
This repeated architectural device creates variously connected spaces, separated or in a state of liminal ambiguity.
Internally, an enfilade of large sliding doors allows the linear plan to be completely opened up, allowing sight & circulation from one end of the residence to the other, or alternatively to be closed and separated as required.
The entry has been located at the midpoint rather than the typical “front door” to deliver you centrally to the living space, eschewing long corridors and maximizing circulation efficiency.
Guests are guided to this setback entry point through a rhythmic portico of structural timber entry posts that support the open carport.
The entry procession leads to an arrival space that looks out through a large glazed window onto the southern courtyard, drawing you through to the central living space.
This entrance space creates a thermal airlock and privacy separation from southern utility spaces - Mudroom/Laundry and home office.
The living space, central to the house, is completely open through glazing to the north - large stacking timber doors allow this space to be completely opened in warmer months.
A quiet, cool courtyard is located south of the kitchen and provides a respite space in summer, with a custom steel plate breakfast bar accessed through a servery window from the kitchen.
This southern court allows for the cross-ventilation of the large living spaces. A corridor leading to three children’s bedrooms has been widened to create a rumpus area
with direct access to the north light and the landscaped area, with custom joinery cleverly activating this space to create a TV and display area with a cork wall for pictures and a linear daybed & desk to the north side, with roll-away toy boxes.
On the opposite eastern end of the house, the parent's bedroom looks out onto a private garden demarcated by baffle walls, allowing for respite from the noise of growing children.
The ensuite shares This private garden view, featuring a Japanese onsen-style timber bathtub.
A single fall skillion roof with exposed rafters is a nod to the classic Australian mid-century fibro beach shack endemic to surfside communities in the area.
It allows the house to open to the north sun while minimizing glazing and ceiling height to the southern side.
This detailed architectural approach has been drawn from Markowitz’s experience as a furniture maker and architect.
The house has a strict horizontal and vertical grid alignment, which dictates the layout and rhythm and is picked up and reflected by different architectural elements throughout the house.
Ross Bakker, the builder and long-term collaborator with Markowitz exclaimed during construction, “You’ve designed a house like a piece of furniture!”.
This rigor was challenging, with expressed beams, exposed structural columns, and rafters forming a legible structural logic that must be carefully considered throughout the building.
It could only have been achieved by Bakker, whose craftsman-like approach to the building allowed for precise execution of subtle details that run through the house.
This expressed structural language and rhythm is legible along the length of the house and defines its form.
A battened timber pergola defines and shades the key outdoor entertaining space and diffuses the strong summer sun from large north-facing windows. High-level clerestory glazing allows the entry of the winter sun to heat the thermal mass of the concrete slab in winter while being shaded by the overhanging eave in the summer.
The structural language carrying the roof is expressed on the low side of the skillion roof by an expressed structural Vee gutter, which extends beyond the house as a spitter detail, recalling midcentury precedents such as Richard Neutra.
MATERIALITY & INTERIORS
External cedar cladding is brought into the interior to define the flow of the baffle walls from the outside to the inside and create the connection and flow from the exterior to the interior. Soft eucalypt greens and warm neutrals define key living spaces.
A consistent datum line at 2.4m high runs through the whole project and is expressed via a custom picture rail (machined by Markowitz in his workshop for the project), which divides lower colored areas from higher ceiling tones and is designed to express the fall of the skillion roof internally.
Dark stained Victorian Blackbutt contrasts against the lighter paint tones to define the structural hardwoods internally, drawing reference to Japanese and Arts & Crafts references, as does the use of pebbledash render on the exterior.
Warm-toned Victorian Blackwood has been used in key spaces throughout the project, from kitchen cabinetry to custom-made furniture, supported and contrasted by lighter recycled Victorian Blackbutt timber.
The interior color palette of greens and warm whites was designed to complement the warm timber tones. At times, it is playful, with pops of color and earthy terrazzo tiles enlivening the family bathroom, and at times subdued, with whites, living brass, and earthy greys in the onsen-inspired ensuite.
Markowitz is a trained fine furniture maker as well as an architect, and his interdisciplinary studio prides itself on the fine consideration of timber detailing, joinery, and furniture as an integral part of the design concept.
A number of Markowitz’s pieces have been custom-made for this project in Victorian Blackwood to match the joinery, including his Flea Chairs, Fred Table, and his Plane Bed (first designed for Peter Stutchbury’s Cabbage Tree House) with a headboard and bedside table specially designed for this project.
Other details manufactured within Markowitz’s workshop include; 1)A custom butcher’s block island bench made from solid Blackwood (over 1000 little Blackwood end grain blocks were glued together for it!) with expressed contrasting Blackbutt legs, which are integrally connected to the benchtop to become part of the chopping surface 2)Custom hand-carved 2.4m high door handles 3)Smaller items throughout the house, such as custom picture rails.
This project was realized with support from the team at Stavrias Architecture, who provided design input and documentation support throughout the project, and is the second project successfully delivered in the productive collaboration between these two practices (and old university friends!).