Brimar House, an expansive 600sqm home in Mount Waverly, Victoria, was built to accommodate the owners: a retired couple and their two young-adult children, as well as various family and friends who often visit from overseas.
The brief supplied to architect Michael Ong from MODO was to create a visually dynamic house with spaces that can accommodate their family and guests, allowing there to be communal space as well as privacy. The outcome is a generous and tranquil multi-generational home that is both striking and composed.
“From the street the homeowner wanted something that was a bit dynamic and had a point of difference,” explained Michael Ong, Director of Michael Ong Design Office.
The exterior of the house is divided. The bottom half consists of ivory-coloured concrete brick, while the second storey is clad in thermally modified timber. Michael thought it was important the house felt grounded and embedded into the earth – that it provided a sense of ‘mass’ and ‘weight’.
“We naturally looked into concrete bricks and blocks and moved away from the grey and darker tones as we wanted a house that felt welcoming and homely. The light-coloured ivory architectural brick from Adbri Masonry worked wonderfully to give us a smooth, yet subtly textured, finish, which paired beautifully with the timber cladding and the landscape design,” said Michael.
The concrete brick walls of the ground floor are designed as two linear wings, one containing the guest zone and the other for the kids, with a sweeping, curved-glass corridor link – a contrastingly lightweight structure to the two brick-veneered volumes.
The second floor provides the family with bedrooms, kitchen, living and dining areas, as well as a pool, sauna and gym. The family wanted the space to remain comfortable when they were all together, whether there was just the two of them or more.
To give an intimate feel, dark interior tones within the space were incorporated: dark wood walls, wooden cabinets, timber ceilings and floors, and dark details on fireplaces and bookshelves. The style between the two floors is deliberately subdued, minimal and restrained.
Central to the lower floor is a sun-filled private courtyard. Michael said, “The courtyard allowed us to create a centre and an anchor for the whole house. I wanted the house to feel like it’s connected with the courtyard as the central area, so you always know where you are.”
The outside and inside spaces are carefully shaped to form an architecture that invites and encourages the residents to use and enjoy every part of the house, inside and out.
“I have always been fascinated by courtyards, and here we looked at a version which was formed by two volumes wrapping around each other at two different levels,” added Michael.
To create a soft and delicate atmosphere in the courtyard, a series of silver birch trees provide a space for contemplation and quiet, and a curved in-situ concrete bench acts as a ‘rest stop’, encouraging one to slow down. On a warm day, the series of pivot steel doors and louvre windows can be opened, transforming the space to perform in a more similar fashion to an exterior bench and verandah.
Instead of the traditional distinction between house, front yard and backyard layout, Michael was able to weave the garden through the design to create a house that is bonded to its surroundings and landscape. By utilising the first-floor structure, a covered outdoor space connecting to the courtyard was created, linking a pool area, putting green, the rest of the garden and an outdoor fire place, which has been built into the exterior architecture, showcasing Adbri Masonry’s ivory concrete brick.
The second-storey timber structure provides the cover for the outdoor space. Michael said, “I like to let the building work in a way that actually provides a cover for the outdoor space instead of having to add a cover such as an awning.”
Curves feature throughout the build, adding a softness and more sculptural look. Adbri Masonry’s concrete bricks were the obvious choice for the lower build, as they provide unrivalled design flexibility and can be used both internally and externally. To offset the heaviness of the brick, delicate lace-like details were created throughout to curve gently with the wall. Steel plates were used through each level of brick to hold the lacework together.
“The architects did a lot of work with the bricklayer and the engineer to get the concrete brick lacework to curve. The result of the lace detailing allows more light in and draws the eye to the sculptural element within the build,” said Michael.
The lace-like brick theme is also used downstairs as a screen, in a smaller pebbled courtyard, accessed via a guest bedroom. This allows light into the guest bedroom and adds a beautiful visual element. The remaining downstairs area has the capacity to house guests comfortably and ensures visitors have their own privacy and space, both indoor and outdoor.
Michael mentioned the most satisfying aspect of working on the ‘Brimar’ house was to now see how it settled into the garden and slowly aged. He has already noticed the bricks are slowly picking up the environment and building up a beautiful patina. “It is wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what it will look like over the next five to 10 years!”
The bold and breath-taking result is nothing short of spectacular, with the house receiving a Kevin Borland Masonry Award – High Commendation, at the Think Brick Awards 2022.
For more information, visit www.adbrimasonry.com.au