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Posted: Fri, 03 Nov 2017 06:19:11 GMT

Owners: A couple with adult children and grandchildren

Architect: Josephine Hurley, josephinehurley.com

The problem: The sloping site had been sitting undeveloped for years because council would not approve the design

The site: A steep waterfront block

Design solution: A new multi-level house with separate accommodation and a lift to connect everything

How long did it take: Two to three years

This house is the reason Josephine Hurley became an architect.

Her parents have owned the riverfront site at Grays Point since she was a child and their dreams of building a house on it peppered her childhood.

“My parents bought the site in the 1980s and I think if you had told them at the time that it would take 35 years to put a house on it, they never would have done it,” she says.

Not long after they bought it, Josephine’s aunt and uncle, who are both architects, prepared a design and submitted it to council.

It did not go well.

“It spent 10 years in council and then the Land & Environment Court,” she says. “By the time it was approved, the design had changed so much that my parents lost interest.”

The silver lining was that discussions about the home and models of it fuelled young Josephine’s interest in design.

“They were always talking about it,” she says. “It’s why I became an architect.”

While she was studying at university Josephine took another look at the site.

“When I was in my final year and the project had been forgotten about, I asked if I could do a design thesis on it,” she says.

It was submitted to council and was approved. She says her parents didn’t know what to make of it.

“When I told them it was approved, I don’t think they believed me but they said, ‘sure, give it a go,’ ” she says.

ON THE LEVEL

Josephine’s design runs over three levels, with a north-easterly aspect to the water.

“You can look across to the lights of Gymea on one side and to Deer Park, in the Royal National Park, in the other direction,” she says. “It is just trees and natural sandstone outcrops and when you’re there you don’t feel like you’re in the city at all.”

The bottom level of the house is self-contained accommodation, which is perfect when Josephine or one of her siblings come to stay with their children.

“When we’re downstairs, my parents can forget we exist,” she says.

The next level contains the main living spaces, which are on the waterfront side of the house, and then the remaining bedrooms and garage are at the top, at street level.

“It’s incredibly steep. You are dictated to by the site and you want the home to sit as low as possible (for the view),” she says.

VIEW FINDER

Although it was tempting, Josephine resisted creating open-plan living spaces with an uninterrupted view of the water.

“When you have such a beautiful view, it is tempting to capture it from every space but it’s about concealing and revealing,” she says.

Views are framed to direct the eye and lead the visitor through while the space has been carefully constructed to allow the house to expand and contract when necessary.

“The extended family is so big and the home needed to be flexible so it could accommodate these massive family get-togethers. When it’s just the two of them, it needs to be quite intimate,” she says.

When she was specifying materials, Josephine was aware of the role her family played in the house’s design.

“I was mindful that my uncle did the first design in the ’80s with face brickwork and timber ceilings so it’s a play on that,” she says. “It’s using a very honest material palette that would stand the test of time. It could have been built in the ’70s or now.”

An internal lift ensures her parents will be able to move from level to level with ease.

LONG AND WINDING ROAD

The construction process was not easy, due to the demanding site. “We had a great builder from 2M Projects,” Josephine says. “The poor guy would be waiting for a delivery, and then he would find out it had been dumped on the street because they would not go down to that site. He was a very persistent.”

It’s just as well.

“It was a long build and during the process it was suggested more than once that my parents should sell it — but it’s very special to them.”

THE SOURCE

Floor rugs from the Akira Isogawa range for Designer Rugs, designerrugs.com.au

Floor tiles Travertine Noce floor tiles from Granite & Marble Works, granitemarbleworks.com.au

Natural stone Alpine Dry Stone Walling from Eco Outdoor, ecooutdoor.com.au

Pendant lights George Nelson Bubble Lights from Spence & Lyda, spenceandlyda.com.au

Paint Dulux Vivid White walls, dulux.com.au

Kitchen benchtops Caesarstone bench tops in Snow, caesarstone.com.au Couches Nook couch from Jardan, jardan.com.au

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