Castlecrag House, Castlecrag


Rob Brown, of
Casey Brown Architecture

Private Client

We had originally asked Rob Brown of Casey Brown Architecture to design us a completely new home on the adjoining block. At the last minute we decided to stay where we have been for the last 40 years. Building on the new block would have meant being in a narrower house on more levels and pulling away from the foreshore. Remodelling the older place meant we could have more room to move laterally so we decided to open it up and let the kids and grand-kids run.

This had been a family home and we were keen that the refurbishment retain that feeling, not precious. There’s a large table right in the centre of things that sits the 16 of us for our weekly family dinners. We also wanted more of the feeling of an inside/outside house. The imperative was to downsize, modernise and de-clutter so we consolidated some of the separate rooms to make larger spaces. From our ‘adult’s space’ in the middle of it all, we can still hear everyone—especially the grandchildren as they go off into their own areas.

Bellevarde built our country house and they’d been so enjoyable to work with that, when it came to do our city home, they were the only builder on our short list. Credit must go to Bellevarde’s Matt Misek who has been at the heart of the refurbishment. He’s managed to create perfect translations of what Rob Brown and Caroline Casey, from Casey Brown Architecture, and I had envisaged. We limited the materials to the bare minimum—concrete, wood and mixed metals. With their usual skill and determination, Bellevarde have seen that everything is beautifully made. Each element has more than lived up to expectations. John Fielding was his usual, practical and brilliant self. The team were so easy to get along with, friendly and polite.

Caroline and I spent a good deal of time sourcing the elements that make up the interior. The lampshades were our first purchase. I was drawn to the colours as they pick up tones and shades of the artworks we already had. Rob knew I was an avid art collector and made sure there was enough wall space for all my favourite pieces. Bellevarde ensured the walls are perfectly rendered. We have the lamps placed over the large dining table in such a way that it feels right whether there are 16 of us or just two.

Matt has done such a great job on the house that we’ve put him in charge of re-doing the boat-shed. It’s turned out to be a bigger job than we first anticipated. We feel lucky to have had the Bellevarde guys at hand. Any issues were solved before they became problems. Things got fixed instantaneously. They collaborated beautifully with us and the architects and took great pride in their work.

The adjoining block has now become a garden and Bellevarde are working with Bates Landscape to see that job completed too. Our second major project with Bellevarde has been a huge success. Thanks to John, Matt and the whole team.

Rob Brown, of
Casey Brown Architecture

The owners originally wanted to move into a smaller house on the adjoining block. When it became clear that new foreshore laws would have meant being further away from the water, they decided to stay in the old house. The idea was to re-work an old-fashioned plan into a contemporary open-plan with vistas out over the bay. It became a case of downsizing, up-sized.

Working with an existing property requires enormous expertise and a different set of skills to a new build. You’ve got to knock a little here and smash a little there while still preserving what’s important. The site manager, Bellevarde’s Matt Misek, did an excellent job working through that balance and finding the right mix of new and old.

One of the questions with a refurbishment is ‘Where do you stop?’ In this case, the answer was—we didn’t. This has become the biggest renovation job of my architectural career and, although it was mostly an interior project, you wouldn’t recognise the place from what it was before. The refurbishment includes new windows, floor, ceilings and roof—the pool has also been re-finished. The owners have become one of our favourite clients to work with. We would ask them if they would like to try something and they would invariably say ‘Sure, go for it.’

The original entry door was too small for the updated design. To give the right level of importance to the entry, a huge pivot door, a Bellevarde signature and something of a masterpiece, has taken its place. The landing gives way to the central living space and a view straight out to the trees and the water, setting the tone for the spaces beyond.

A large custom-made dining table sits at the heart of things in the central room, which we made double height. This being the space most used, we opened the whole area up and gave it a modern outdoor deck. Because it’s roofed to protect from the sun, the deck needed a support column. I asked the owners how they would feel about a support structure right in the middle of their water view and, together, we decided to make it a feature. Inspiration for the column’s design came from the famous flared columns of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Headquarters. Matt constructed a superbly detailed prototype as proof of concept and this gave us the confidence to proceed. The final piece is made up of radiating stainless steel fins clad in merbau. Flowering majestically up into the roof, it even manages to incorporate a central drainpipe. It’s as beautiful as it is practical.

The Bellevarde team are master craftspeople working at the highest level. There is artistry in every detail. The sliding doors that completely disappear into the wall and the huge guillotine window (the largest in Australia) are great examples. Likewise, the perfect edging between the plasterboard and the ceiling. The interior woodwork and exterior stonework are extraordinarily well detailed. One of the most impressive material finishes is the brass-work of the fireplace and stair screen. The cutouts from the stairs were used to make up the street-level gate.

Half way down the driveway sits a small tree-house that was completely designed and built by Matt Misek. You’ve got to hand it to Bellevarde. Their love of and exposure to great architecture leaves them well placed to design and construct ‘in the style of’.

As is invariably the case with Bellevarde, this was a happy job. Being around other people who are focused on detail and working in the same direction is energising. Thanks to John, Matt, Steve, Seb and the whole team for taking Carly and my ideas and turning them into reality with such care and pursuit of perfection. The owners’ happiness and the livability of the final result are testament to the success of the process.

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