Sydney Villa: Light & leafy design


Surrounded by cliff, bushy national park and a serene valley view out to the ocean, it’s no wonder this home was designed with a connection to nature at the fore




Quinlan Elanora 088

Quinlan Elanora pool


Quinlan Elanora design


HOUSE Sydney Villa

LOCATION northern Sydney, New South Wales

COST $1.3M

DATE COMPLETED November 2013
Imagine a 1500m² hillside block at the end of a cul de sac with rear-facing views over a valley and to the ocean. This fantastic piece of land in northern Sydney was home to a 50-year-old weatherboard cottage and overgrown garden and was bursting with potential. Homeowners Carrie and John approached architect Justin Quinlan from The Quinlan Group with a brief for a home that would be practical, functional, private and well designed.

The homeowners are a married couple with two children and a large dog so they wanted their property to have a strong indoor-outdoor connection, a pool, and “plenty of space for the kids to run around”, says homeowner Carrie.

How to tackle a new home build on a sloping escarpment, at the edge of a densely wooded peninsula with a major rock ledge but also facing out toward spectacular beach and ocean views? “The project was conceived to function much like the torso of person,” explains architect Justin. It’s actually quite easy to imagine the shape of this home is a person balancing well on the land, its arms outstretched and enjoying the outlook from high on the hill. “It has its back to the street and its arms stretching out into the landscape,” continues Justin. “The common areas are sheltered back between the two arms, with the kitchen sitting right at the centre of the plan, at the conceptual heart of the scheme.” The treatment of the facades carries this idea through, with transparent glazing at the rear opening out to the valley.

It’s a design that allows for space and light so the full appreciation of the natural beauty enveloping this home can be embraced. When it’s summer, the seamless flow between indoors and out is enjoyed, with the house “opened up”, while during the colder months it remains cosy and homely. The house isn’t grand and oversized for the sake of it; instead, each space has been carefully thought out and is well utilised, say the owners. They put this down to good preparation and worked closely with Justin to create detailed plans. “We put great emphasis on staying true to Justin Quinlan’s design and not changing anything during the build,” emphasises Carrie.

They couldn’t use timber for the exterior of the house because it would be a fire risk for the area, so Carrie and John worked with the colours of nature to ensure the home sat well in its surroundings. “We aimed to blend in with the natural bush setting and still have a modern-looking home,” explains Carrie.

Making the most of this fantastic location, the home’s design affords views from every room. Because of the positioning, an abundance of windows bring the verdant outdoors in, as well as plenty of light, without compromising on privacy. High ceilings, large windows and sliding glass doors, combined with clerestory windows, further enhance this home’s amazing ambience.

The relationship with the land was an important part of the design and requirements of this family. “Justin did an amazing job of designing a house to suit the block of land and our briefs,” says Carrie. “There is an harmonious relationship between the building and its surroundings,” says Justin of this new build, which has two storeys, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, two living areas, double garage, pool and decks. The building forms float over existing rock ledges, jutting out and creating a series of different living platforms. These are conceived as wings; the children have their own, the master wing is for the homeowners with their own privacy and space, and there’s a living area wing that is the central hub and heart of the home.

The landscape and natural environment were important elements of this home and its design. They inspired Justin and the home’s colour palette, as well as the way the house is lived in. “I love the fact that every living area in the house is oriented to a view, however each one has a different perspective,” says Justin. “The children’s bedrooms cantilever out into the tree canopy, the master bedroom is elevated over the rock shelf, the kitchen and living room views are framed by the external decks, and the master ensuite orients to the old-growth forest and the national park below.

The way the building “floats” across the property’s existing rock ledges minimised excavation on the site, as well as site disturbance and drainage. It also meant no footings were needed, giving the home a small environmental footprint despite its size. Each “arm” of the home is oriented roughly in the optimum direction for cross ventilation, further enhancing the home’s environmental performance, Justin explains. There is decking around the east-facing glazing and the main living wing has high-level glazing under its eaves, maximising winter sun penetration while minimising summer sun. The green credentials don’t stop there, with the property also featuring two large water tanks and “green” water used to flush toilets and water the garden.

The interaction of internal and external spaces in this expansive family home is impressive. Interconnected and flowing seamlessly, there are spaces for family living and entertaining as well as relaxation and quiet contemplation. Like a natural wonderland, this property has everything a family could wish for — space, privacy, peace and tranquillity, as well as a pool, separate zones for kids and parents, large outdoor areas, ocean views and bushland setting. “It’s a unique and beautiful architectural design in a truly magical setting that takes full advantage of the block of land and the views,” says Carrie.


Project details:

ARCHITECT Justin Quinlan, The Quinlan Group




Structural engineer Robert Corvaia, Civplex 



Interior decorator Kara Shanahan, KDS Design



Flooring Havwoods
Tiles and stone Tina Giunta, Classic Tiles
Joinery Star Kitchens
Doors and windows Trend Windows and Doors
Bathroom fittings Argent Australia
Front door Walker Bros


Written by Emma Wheaton

Photography by Tyrone Branigan

Originally from Grand Designs Australia Volume 3 Issue 4