Aptly named ‘Dizzy Heights’, this sophisticated coastal home perched on the edge of an exposed clifftop makes the most of its expansive Pacific Ocean views.
Photography: Jen Wilding + Michael Nicolson
Bruce Stafford ArchitectsBased in Sydney, Bruce Stafford Architects is an award-winning practice that prides itself on a reputation for commitment and integrity. With an extensive portfolio of residential and commercial projects, the practice is dedicated to creating finely crafted buildings and interiors that are valued by our clients and the wider community.
Hare + Klein
Led by Meryl Hare and Associate Dimity Chitty, Hare + Klein is a creative practice that believes in enriching lives through design. Their philosophy is embedded in our strong conviction that an interior should balance aesthetics with layers of visual generosity. Woven into their work are texture, warmth, refined comfort and a sense of the client’s personality.
Established in 1994 by Matthew Cantwell, the team at Secret Gardens believe in the balance between the built and softer elements of the garden. With a focus on residential projects, Secret Gardens offer a complete service from landscape architecture and construction through to horticultural services.
The exposed clifftop position and expansive sea views made for a desirable property for its new ocean-loving owners. However, the spatial layout of the existing dwelling neglected to meet their needs and the surrounding landscape was tired with dilapidated features.
Architect Bruce Stafford explains the initial site visit revealed the home’s poor circulation with inaccessible tight, dark interiors. However, the unique setting and existing architectural elements offered the opportunity to create a remarkable home perched on the cliff.
The Story Behind The Design
“The original design of the double-height volume living room was beautifully proportioned and had a lovely rhythm of columns,” explains Bruce of the architecture that appeared to be inspired by the early work of Richard Meier.
“We decided to work with and enhance the original aesthetic. For me, it talked about Australian coastal architecture.” With a vision to reinforce a sophisticated coastal aesthetic, the additions and alterations were deliberately designed using the same weatherboard materials and approach so it is difficult to distinguish between what is old and what is new.
The entrance and the interiors of the project were key areas that required manipulation. “It was a long, narrow L-shaped house with the circulation positioned at the rear,” explains Bruce. “The interiors were dark and narrow, and required better circulation flow.”
The brief focused on widening the interiors, reorganising the upstairs bedroom arrangement and reviewing the aesthetic to modernise it from its original form. Together with Hare + Klein, the convoluted circulation flow was corrected with a series of linked semi-open plan spaces. “This required a considered and cohesive palette of finishes that was neutral but not bland. Layers of texture and colour in soft greys, off whites and rich timbers reflect the steep cliffs below,” says design associate Dimity Chitty of Hare + Klein.
We decided to work with and enhance the original aesthetic. For me, it talked about Australian coastal architecture.
A key statement in the dining and living areas is the incorporation of the pre-existing European oak parquetry floor that was originally imported from an old French château, which Dimity says was too beautiful to discard. “It had been mistreated and the builder was confident we could breathe new life into it.”
Bordering the oak parquetry and underpinning the interior palette is the Cocullo Limestone pavers. “The Cocullo has an extraordinary subtle variation of beautiful neutrals that tied everything warm & cool together,” explains Dimity. “It set the tone for the understated yet sophisticated coastal home. We also specified it in a brushed finish; the subtle undulations are divine underfoot.”
Fittings & Fixtures
Mesmeri by Artemide
Z5 by Ay Illuminate
Pocket Armchair by Hem
Eve by KWC
Scraplights from Graypants
Custom basin Boyd Alternatives
While challenging to create a warm and comfortable space, the vast double-height volume living room created a distinctive architectural feature of the home. “It’s not often that we get to work with such high ceilings”, says Bruce. “It offered the opportunity to create a second story for an open study so you can look over the water.”
The Cocullo extends externally for a seamless transition into the property’s outdoor spaces designed by Secret Gardens. Here, the layout encourages use during favourable weather and then almost disappears when being viewed from within the home to avoid impeding the coastal outdoor. This was a successful exercise in the art of restraint explains landscape architect Matt Cantwell.
“It’s easy to complicate things. The garden was key, but we recognised that this was one instance where the house needed to stand proud on the clifftop, so this time our approach was very much less is more”, he says.
The garden was key, but we recognised that this was one instance where the house needed to stand proud on the clifftop, so this time our approach was very much less is more.
While restrained, the garden is not without its showstoppers. A deck, essentially suspended on the edge of the cliff, was one feature that all the creatives and client agreed was a huge success. “It was a design, engineering and construction feat. It enables you to get closer to the ocean, to feel like you are letting go of safe grounding and really tests you if you’re not comfortable with heights.”
The cohesive language of the home extends from the entrance with its iconic floating stairs through to the cliff’s edge reflecting the coastal aesthetic and environment. This was enriched by the client’s strong aesthetic sensibility. For Bruce, it is the seamless integration of landscape, architecture and interiors that has resulted in such an exemplary home.