Trisha Croaker July 22, 2012
This young family wanted relaxed but practical spaces for daily life. Balcony House has stylishly delivered that and more.
Sitting with architect Luigi Rosselli early one evening recently, we discussed the emotions that great, even good, architecture evokes. I spoke of searching for joy or delight in buildings as in nature. Rosselli spoke of creating soft, natural, non-aggressive humane spaces contributing positively to family and community life. Of designing for humanity. Of giving clients a sense of permanence and solidity.
"Being humane is important I think," Rosselli says. "Buildings should relate and communicate happily with the community they're in, the occupants and neighbours. If my clients tell me they're happy in a building, that's the best feedback and compliment we can get."
One of his newest residential projects - the Balcony House in Sydney's eastern suburbs - is a good example. This is a family home designed for a couple with three young children. They wanted a relaxed house, a bedroom for each child, a swimming pool, lots of storage, and space to entertain. Alterations to the existing 1920s project home on site were considered, but proved unfeasible.
Taking advantage of the wedge-shaped site - narrow at the street and widening to the sea - Rosselli designed a two-storey house sitting unobtrusively and gently across the rear of the block, maximising ocean views, light and cross-ventilation.
He placed living and dining areas, kitchen, bathroom and study downstairs, all bedrooms upstairs, with a TV room, cellar and guest suite tucked into the lower ground floor. The house was opened to generous balconies facing the sea and outdoor space wherever possible.
"It's important that beach houses be all about relaxed lifestyle - that you can open all windows and step out from every room into an outdoor room or space. It's important not to just picture-frame views - you must be able to access them if possible and to not be closed off in a stable air-conditioned environment."
Rosselli is known for his subtle palette of materials and the quiet, restrained use of mellifluous curves and fluid corners. "People ask me why I round off every corner - it's because it gives a softness to every building," he says.
Externally, he's used a sandstone base and white rendered body at ground level, and a red cedar timber-clad upper level to allow the building to ''lighten'' as it rises. Internally, the practice's interior designer Alexandra Donohoe worked with the clients to create a surprisingly warm black and white palette complementing the non-aggressive, calmness of Rosselli's architecture.
This is a house full of delight from your first point of contact - a softly rounded 10-metre-long sandstone wall, guiding you from the garage to the heart of the house; to the cantilevered stairs, the fluid sweep of balconies, and master joinery.
And, the owners tell me, as they have Rosselli, they couldn't be happier here.