Grand Designs Australia: Songbird home


A leaf-shaped home that doesn’t fall far from the tree

House: Kuitpo Song tower House
Location: Kuitpo Forest, South Australia
Date commenced: December 2013
Date completed: June 2015
Cost: $2.2 million

Colour Palette: Colour for this project is all taken from nature. Reddish timbers, sandstone, slate grey and evening sky blue are all tied together by the views of the green landscape from expansive windows

Taking on a vineyard is no small feat — especially when one owner is a Silicon Valley whiz kid and the other, a soulful opera singer. But for Cate and Nick Foskett, South Australia was home, and that meant creating one that was completely theirs. After purchasing a vineyard located near the township of McLaren Vale, the duo went back to university to study viticulture while building their new abode and running a farm — now that’s commitment.

Designing a new life is not taken on by many due to the harsh reality that routine and normality are thrown out the window in the process. Nick and Cate embraced this daunting task and chose to face it head on, seizing an opportunity to further their education and their careers.

After the couple settled on a commercial Shiraz and Chardonnay vineyard with a whopping 42 hectares, the land provided ample opportunity to create an unusual structure that offers more than meets the eye. “I really enjoyed going back to university,” says Cate. “I found my opera career less challenging and this was a good departure.”

With the goal to build a home that covers all eventualities, Nick and Cate worked with architect Max Pritchard on a structure that appears normal from the street, but reveals its curves and connecting tower upon closer inspection. “We are building something that looks like a normal house, but as you get closer, you will see it’s more architectural than it looks — it’s not your average rectangular box,” says Nick. With most of the home remaining open plan, a wall acts as the spine of the residence, dividing the common areas from the cinema, study and bedroom suites — not to forget the adjoining two-storey song tower, which houses a library and a rehearsal space for Cate. “This is my space in the build,” she says. “I can do whatever I want in here — it’s my little retreat.”

Described by Peter Maddison as a “triptych of cultures”, the build for this home began with a 4am start to lay an eye-shaped slab, and later, the installation of steel panels that join together to form a parabolic roof that mirrors the curves of the floor. With the structure quickly taking shape, it became evident this home was melting into the landscape, almost sinking into its surrounds and mirroring the aesthetic of nature — simple and raw.

But all builds come with ‘setbacks’ and for this Kuitpo home, it was the delivery of different-coloured roof panels and an executive decision from Nick to chop the top off the curved ridge line of the roof, much to the surprise of architect Max. But as the old adage goes, the customer is always right.

During the $20,000 excavation of the cellar space, Nick and Cate hit the jackpot — the sandstone jackpot — and elected to utilise this natural material to create the spine of the home. Sandstone is a big part of the area’s design history, with most heritage homes featuring the quintessentially Australian material. “Using sandstone will help the building speak the local vernacular,” says Peter.

Constructed over a period of four months utilising the skills of four stonemasons and 10,000 rocks, this wall serves as the main feature of the home, and rightly so.

After the roof panels were fitted to the curved structure, work on the song tower began, much to the delight of Cate. Gargantuan glass panels at the back of the main house were installed shortly after, which invites nature into the home and enables the landscape to influence the house with a “split personality”, says Peter.

Daring to take on a vineyard and build a house that reflects two unique personalities is not a task for the faint-hearted. Nick and Cate have created a space where every line leads you somewhere and, most importantly, blurs the barriers between work, home and play.



Written by Annabelle Cloros
Photography by David Solm

Originally from Grand Designs Australia magazine, Volume 5 Issue 1