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Darkwood Residence on Grand Designs

14 Apr 2021

Wilderness at heart. Wilderness at home.

Our Darkwood Residence project known as ‘Tamar River House’ on this Season of Grand Designs Australia was featured on the latest episode which aired on Foxtel on Wednesday 14th April 2021. It has been a pleasure for the Cumulus team to be a part of this process and to design a home for our clients, Eloise and Matt.

The main points we took from our initial meetings with our clients, Matt and Eloise is that they wanted a home with a small, sustainable footprint and smart use of space. Eloise explains that “having a house that we use every part of is so important to us, not just to have space for the sake of it – no stagnate areas that are just for show” and the design outcome reflects that desire. The site was a sloping block with views of the Tamar Valley, which allowed us the opportunity to be creative in our design. We collaborated closely with Matt, who built Darkwood Residence himself over three years.

Darkwood Residence is simple for the most part, but clever when it matters. It’s not detached from its surroundings, but part of it. Step straight off the veranda and stroll amongst towering trees. Or take a window seat and feel suspended in the Tamar Valley views. The house steps down the steep hill to closely match the ground line, allowing it to stay connected to nature. Eloise elaborates on the connection to nature now that the family are living in their home “It is such a wonderful space that Cumulus designed for us to live in, practical but also inspirational with its connection to the river and landscape.” and what remarkable nature it is, with views over the river, through the trees, and to the beaches and bays beyond.

A tin metal skin proved robust, low maintenance and cost-effective. Then we timber clad the outer areas you’d come in contact with so they felt more tactile, almost like joinery or furniture. Macrocarpa, a plantation timber, kept this sustainable as did solar panels, good insulation and a wetback heating system.

Our response was relatively low tech, stripped back and simple. We prioritised the natural surrounds, natural light and hard-wearing natural materials to fit the brief. A folded, sculptural roof lets light flood the living area. Built-in furniture fits the small footprint, with deep windows allowing you to sit, relax and feel part of the view.

We positioned Darkwood Residence to make the most of its breathtaking surrounds. Bedrooms, dining and living rooms look out over northeasterly and southeasterly river views. Then the site itself is protected from the prevailing winds, with an internal courtyard offering sheltered outdoor space too. Amidst Aussie native splendour, a monolithic concrete fireplace nods to Matt and Eloise’s love for Japan, with the concrete poured by Matt himself.

One of the key elements of the home that Matt & Eloise enjoy is the placement of the windows which capture little vignettes of nature, during the design process Cumulus Director & Architect Todd Henderson recommended a vent system rather than opening windows, Eloise is delighted with this outcome and explains “the vent system rather than opening windows could not be more perfect, it has really made each window more like a picture frame and I love it and so far we have found that the vents let in plenty of fresh air when required. The spaces feel big and so open but in reality, the floor plan is quite modest.”

With a steep site like this, many would be tempted to design a box cantilevered off a hill. But we’re proud of how Darkwood’s stepped design makes the most of the view, yet still feels connected to the nature around it. It brings the feeling of outdoors indoors, plus there’s no balustrade blocking the view, either.

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