House Design | The suburban treetops house retreat

PRIVATE RETREAT: The Treetops House on the Mornington Peninsula by Bryant Alsop Architects. The brief was to create the notion of a weekender - evoking images of architectural simplicity and isolation where owners can escape their weekday life and reconnect with themselves and their environment. Pictures: Jack Lovel.
PRIVATE RETREAT: The Treetops House on the Mornington Peninsula by Bryant Alsop Architects. The brief was to create the notion of a weekender - evoking images of architectural simplicity and isolation where owners can escape their weekday life and reconnect with themselves and their environment. Pictures: Jack Lovel.

This home among the treetops in regional Victoria was designed for a semi-retired couple and their whippet, Monty, to provide a private and secluded-feeling haven to entertain guests and engage with the surrounding trees and bay views.

Bryant Alsop Architects set out to create the notions of a weekender - evoking images of architectural simplicity and isolation (typically found in landscape-rich sites like sand dunes, woodlands, rolling hills, where the view is just there), where the owners can escape their weekday life and reconnect with themselves and their environment.

Director Sarah Bryant said the challenge was to create a sense of retreat on a large, but essentially suburban, corner block in Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula.

"Our clients wanted a new house on a bayside site with views across Port Phillip Bay to the city."

Treetops and bay views. Picture: Jack Lovel.

Treetops and bay views. Picture: Jack Lovel.

The building is contained to one edge of the site to maintain a strong connection with the existing landscape, as well as taking advantage of the long-distance views.

"The inherent nature of the site was that whilst heavily treed and embedded in nature, the greatest connection to the view was only going to be made at first-floor level," Bryant said.

"Within the confines of a relatively simple brief, the house evolved around our clients' love of food, wine and entertaining (as well as a sophisticated and extensive wine collection), tempered by their wish to be private and self-contained when guests are staying.

"This duality expresses itself in both the planning and the materiality of the house, and informed the initial architectural gestures when the design process began," Bryant said.

All about entertaining. Picture: Jack Lovel.

All about entertaining. Picture: Jack Lovel.

To achieve a sense of duality, the house was placed as far into the corner of the site as possible, screening the rest of the block from neighbours, while also becoming the a high point to maximise on the views across Port Phillip Bay towards Melbourne.

"The added benefit of this was to create a compact building footprint that scribes the edge of a large informal, native garden connected to the house via a long covered terrace stepping down to the lawn - a space to sit and take in the land as it falls away from the house," Bryant said.

The journey through the house takes visitors along a timber-clad wall punctuated by slot windows framing views to the garden.

The interior scheme of the ground floor reflects the formal materiality - solid, grounded concrete terraces and rendered block balanced with polished-concrete screed floors and charcoal coloured ceilings.

This broodiness is punctuated by the organic shape of the green rendered cellar - a shot of colour repeated throughout the house.

Floor to ceiling windows beyond draw diffuse light into the entry emphasizing the shape and texture of the cellar walls.

Arriving at the top of the stairs, the ceiling rakes up and away - opening up the first views over Port Phillip Bay.

"It was important that the end result reflected the aspirations of the client more than the whim of the designer. Australian entertaining is easy and welcoming in these spaces," Bryant said.

"This is a house that has been designed to align with the day-to-day routines and nuances of our clients in mind - one that can open up to accommodate a large cocktail party or close down for the two of them (and their dog) to enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fire in the middle of July."

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