Stonelea House / Matthew Woodward Architecture
Text description provided by the architects. The core of our client’s initial brief was a photograph. The photo showed a family of three generations; grandparents, their five children, and a swarm of grandchildren. This project was to include a country retreat for them all. A new home that could house a lifetime of past and future memories.
The project site has been enjoyed by this family for many years, residing in a number of workers’ cottages, each with their own unique view across the vast river valley, and a direct connection to the Cox’s River below. It is a special place where the children (big and small) swim in the river, lunch on log benches, ride horses, grow veggie’s and pick fruit. One of the existing cottages, ‘Stonelea’, was chosen as the site for the new home. The memory of ‘Stonelea’ was saved by retaining the pink granite from the existing chimney pillar.
Winding downwards along the private, dusty drive, the burnt tones and grey shades of the Australian bush prelude the first impressions of the new ‘Stonelea’ house – a unified, elongated and low-lying form that addresses the clients’ wish for “country honesty and earthiness”. A very Australian language of timber shiplap wall cladding and metal sheet roof on a podium of the local stone helps to tie this new form into the river valley panorama.
This rusticity of the material palette flows through internal spaces with pitched ceilings of meranti plywood and tapered blackbutt rafters that float above burnished concrete floors. Large sliding doors open living spaces out to a wrap-around timber deck, paved stone terraces & native gardens. A gallery of recycled blackbutt shiplap cladding, sliding glass doors & external timber screens, creates a link between living spaces & bedrooms. Double height, timber-lined stair-wells descend into the stone plinth below. One timber stair provides access to the cellar and wine tasting room for the adults while an alternate stair leads to a rumpus room for the kids. If both adults and children alike require outdoor recreation, the swimming pool and terrace will provide hours of enjoyment.
The clients wanted a practical house built on sound environmental principles. The passive design combined with technological initiatives for power generation, water collection, heating and cooling means that the operational footprint on the environment is minimized. Oriented along an east-west axis with glazed north-facing openings, and low overhanging eaves, the house follows the most important passive solar principles.
During summer the house opens up to allow for cross-ventilation. External screens of timber battens provide further shade especially to the west when the sun finds its way under eave overhangs. In the colder months, the sun shines deep inside to warm concrete floors slabs. This provides the thermal mass necessary to regulate overnight temperatures. A geothermal system provides hot water and heated floors and is supported by a solar array large enough to power the entire house. This is a house that can now sustainably continue a legacy of family memories amongst the backdrop of the rural Australian bush.