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29 / March / 2022
Owner/builder Mick Heuchan’s plans to build his own home were ambitious from the start. But then, this house had been taking shape in his head for more than a decade. The dream was to create a substantial residence that would make a statement now, but also in years to come. When the opportunity arose to buy a block of land on a gently sloping site in the Central Coast hinterland a few years ago, he couldn’t resist.
“You look at stuff that (iconic North American architect) Frank Lloyd Wright did and it’s as relevant today as it was when it was built,” he says. “I wanted to achieve that with this home.” The plan was always to create something that would stand as a monument in the landscape, celebrating timeless design.
It’s a little ironic, then, that the tone for this house began with a far more modest building.
Mick had bought the site with his former wife, artist Belynda Henry. Given the scale of the project and its distance from Sydney, the couple needed some temporary digs - a shed and studio space to live and work in while the build got underway. They built a shed clad in LYSAGHT ENSEAM® and a love affair with the material began.
“If you go to the ocean and look at the rockpools, there is this dark charcoal colour around the edges,” Mick says. “That was what I was after, and I found it in Monument® Matt.”
By the time architect Sophie Solomon arrived on site, Mick’s plans were already well formed. And COLORBOND® steel Matt cladding in Monument® was at the heart of it.
“Mick had a very clear vision,” Sophie says. “He wanted a modern house using concrete and black steel. That was the plan from early on. I had to find a way to give those plans expression while still being in sympathy with the landscape.”
Deceptive in its simplicity, the almost square-shaped two-storey residence was designed to face south, towards the view, against a backdrop of eucalyptus forest to the north. The bedrooms are clustered on the western side, with two on the ground floor and a third on the top floor. All three bedrooms function as suites, each with walk-in robes and private ensuites. There’s also an additional study or fourth bedroom on the upper floor.
Downstairs, the kitchen is literally central to the floorplan, leading out seamlessly onto the terrace and pool, plus the view on one side. On the other side of the kitchen, the north facing living area features an open fireplace Mick crafted himself. Temperatures vary significantly on this part of the coast, so underfloor heating was laid to better manage the cooler months. The whole kitchen and living space is defined by a double height void with a timber lined ceiling. A gallery off the upper bedrooms adds to the sense of space and living in the landscape.
But while the height of the void delivered on drama, Sophie was keen to bring a little domestic scale to the plan, introducing a generous glass ‘box’ with a lower ceiling popping out to the eastern side for the dining room. The kind of room that works best where privacy is not an issue, it serves as a light box, drawing light throughout the house.
There’s also a cleverly conceived wine cellar below the ground floor where form and function intersect. Mick had already chosen BONDEK®, structural steel formwork which creates an ideal base for pouring concrete slabs for the floor above. Instead of covering it up in the basement, Mick opted to paint it in Monument® Matt, installing lighting to create a striking ceiling that saved time and money.
The house is constructed in a refined palette of concrete, glass, timber, and steel befitting a sophisticated residence designed as a retreat for work and play.
“The idea of this very simple material palette was to let the landscape come into the house and for the interior to almost be a gallery for Belynda’s artwork,” says Sophie.
LYSAGHT ENSEAM® in COLORBOND® steel Matt colour Monument® proved the ideal cladding material for this project, in terms of aesthetics, performance and the way it interacted with the other elements in this build. It has been used extensively to wrap around much of the building, its strong vertical lines mirroring the tall, almost majestic trunks of the surrounding trees.
Mick says right from the start, he never considered any other material.
“LYSAGHT® products were critical to this house,” he says. “I love that product so much; the whole side of my house is in Monument® Matt. It is one of those colours that enhances the colours around it.”
He managed the build himself, balancing the warmth of the timber against the dependability of concrete and LYSAGHT ENSEAM®.
“The build was complex, but it wasn’t difficult,” he says.
With its combination of dramatic location, ambitious design, and enthusiastic owner, it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that the house was chosen as a subject for the next series of Grand Designs Australia, due to air later this year. Host Peter Maddison described the finished house as ‘spectacular’.
As much as building this house has meant to him, Mick has decided to move on to the next project. While the location will change, there’s one thing that will stay the same.
“There is only one thing I am putting into my new house, and that’s LYSAGHT ENSEAM®,” he says. “It’s the only product that is definitely coming with me to the new design.”