Shane O'Brien – Bachelor of Architecture

Category: Development application

Being accepted to design a substantial house and outbuildings on a large rural site was exciting. There were a lot of briefed issues to be considered: many and frequent visitors; kitchen as the heart; roaring fires; robustness; easy care; the growing and active family; an evolving family eventually leaving home and visiting as young families; pool house; gym; home office; helping hands; machinery storage; environmental issues; limited power and services; stabling of the ponies; dogs, chooks; books…

View into the 20 hectare rural site

View into the 20 hectare rural site

Many sketches were produced in the early stages, in order to arrive at appropriate solutions. A significant number of sketches passed hands between myself and the interior designers appointed for the project.

One of many early sketches

One of many early sketches

"countryhouse" "ruralproperty" "stables"

3D CAD image of proposed country house in the Southern Highlands NSW

The house came to comprise a main living pavilion, children’s bedroom pavilion, pool house, double garage, machinery shed and stables.

The house performed particularly well in terms of it’s energy rating compliance, incorporating a number of systems to support it’s efficient, sustainable design:

  • North facing living areas.
  • Shading to west and east facades.
  • Heavy, pelmeted curtains.
  • Double glazed timber framed glazing.
  • Compartmentalisation of spaces.
  • Cross flow ventilation.
  • Thermal mass – concrete floor slabs / brick wall ‘spine’..
  • Solar assisted gas hydronic slab heating.
  • Solar hot water.
  • Photovoltaic cells.
  • Wetback fireplace – to assist hydronic heating.
  • 100,000 litre underground water storage.
  • Solar pool heating.

Some of the issues that effected the architecture, the site layout and the materials incorporated were: bushfire compliance requirements; distantly located mains power; no town water or sewer; access to the families ponies; and visual amenity.

The result is a striking contemporary residence proposed to be clad in fibre cement weatherboards, concrete block, folded copper sheet, galvanised steel sheet, cedar and hardwood.

The stylish, charming older couple were former clients when they invited me to design the major alterations and additions to their long dreamed about house on the coast. Some of the bigger issues for consideration were: respect for and retention of the existing heritage cottage; planning for the future to allow the now-extended two storey house to function on one level should accessibility become an issue; ability to close down portions of the house when the many friends and family weren’t visiting; flexible internal and external entertaining spaces; access to the superb ocean views.


The original timber framed cottage, located in a heritage precinct


Extensions to the rear of the cottage

Extensions underway to the rear of the cottage



Sympathetically renovated front facade


The rear facade of the extended timber coast house

A series of systems were incorporated to address the sustainability of the house:

  • North facing facade for passive solar access.
  • Passive ventilation stack to the lower floor laundry/store.
  • Cross flow ventilation – assisted by the breezeway.
  • Thermal mass – concrete floor slabs.
  • Compartmentalisation of the house – close off major portions of the house dependant on occupant levels.
  • 2,000 litre water storage.
  • Extensive use of timber cladding/lining and windows – recyclable material.
  • Re-use of existing storage sheds.

Internal breezeway viewed from the north facing deck

Attention was paid to future use of the building through:

  • Accessible gradients from the lower level garage to the upper floor level.
  • Installation of plumbing to a large cupboard on the upper floor to cater for fitout as a laundry.

The two storey additions to the timber cottage


Kitchen and living areas with ocean views.

To gain a clearer picture of just how much the cottage evolved through the transformation process, you can read a blog created previously.