Stephen Coffey house

Situated below the ridge line of a massive dune on stradbroke Island, This house enjoys a rara and beautiful panorama. Architect Stephen Coffey angled the walls and fanned out the rooms to embrace the ocean, the nearby reef and moreton Island.

WITH A GRADIENT OF ONE IN FOUR and a glorious oceanfacing northeasterly aspect, the site really demanded a dwelling that would double as a lookout. And with such a dramatic incline, a raised split level double storey structure — with decks and glass doors along the entire facade — was the most effective solution.

Architect Stephen Coffey conceived the dwelling as two fan shaped towers linked together, where the front tower is embedded in the rear tower and is vertically separated from it by half a level. Stephen used the symmetrical layout to define the private and shared living zones: the sleeping quarters are in the rear tower, and the living spaces are at the front. In their brief, the clients requested the separation of these zones and the provision of demarcated living zones for themselves and adult guests, and their young children and friends. It was also important that the children’s bedrooms be close to the main bedroom.
To achieve this, Stephen used the back tower to arrange the bedrooms in a two-up two-down formation, each room with its own deck facing the ocean. For privacy the building is rotated 10 degrees towards the north, subtly but effectively obscuring the decks from the neighbours’ outlook. The bathrooms and utility spaces form a service core in the centre of the tower.
The front tower is an elevated open plan two storey structure with the children’s space below and the adults’ area above. The glazed front wall of this tower features a track system that allows the glazed doors to be stacked at the sides for maximum views and ventilation. This wall has no structural function in terms of the rigidity of the building: it simply hangs from the portal frame like a curtain. When the wall is pushed aside, the fan shaped decks on each level can be read as an integral part of the living space. On the upper level, an outdoor dining setting becomes an extension of the lounge area — and its proximity to the kitchen ensures the deck works as a convenient outdoor room.
Viewed from the street, the arrangement of towers and staggered levels creates a series of planes that help break down the visual mass of the building. The poles supporting the decks and overhangs form the vertical elements in a grid where the slightly-curved roofs and balustrades comprise the horizontal lines. The exterior colours have been selected in response to the natural surrounds — grey green and subdued blue treated timber — and a cluster of tall gums creates a leafy backdrop that further softens the visual impact of the building itself.
Internally, the wall colours and upholstery are much bolder, recalling the vibrant tones of the tropics. A special feature is the kitchen bench: formed glass on top of a layer of polished coloured glass chips embedded in a highly durable resin compound.
While the obvious point of focus here is the inspirational view, the house itself is an object that invites the gaze. Down at street level there are the converging horizontal and vertical lines of the facade to admire, while from the decks one looks back into an interior that glows with fresh, vital colours. And the clever, versatile layout of rooms — on a steep, difficult site — has ensured the house not only looks the part, but does the job it was designed to do.

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