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Bondi Wave House

March 23, 2009

The Wave House in Bondi was designed by architect Tony Owen. The house is located in Brighton Boulevard; one street back from the beach. The brief for this house was simple – capture the spirit of Bondi in a home that is both a beach house and a stylish urban dwelling. It was designed for […]

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The Wave House in Bondi was designed by architect Tony Owen. The house is located in Brighton Boulevard; one street back from the beach. The brief for this house was simple – capture the spirit of Bondi in a home that is both a beach house and a stylish urban dwelling. It was designed for a supplier of architectural glass who wanted to show off his wares, so the house makes extensive use of glass.

As a beach house, it was designed to reflect the natural power of its location and, at the same time, capture the sense of style that is increasingly a part of life in Bondi.

The inspiration for this house comes as much from the culture in the surrounding streets as it does from the beach itself. The intention was that you should feel as though you are in a boutique or café rather than a house. The swish of the roof owes as much to the soft lines of a surfboard as the curl of a wave.

The line of the wave is the unifying element that runs all the way through the house.

It forms an entry wing over the garage at the south and rises to give greater height to the living room at the north end. In between, the ceiling curves overhead at the main stair in the centre where the lower and upper levels fold into one another.

The wave re-emerges in the kitchen in the form of a single poured cantilevered concrete island bench. This island bench forms the centrepiece of the living area; it is the only cantilevered concrete bench on an obtuse angle and with curved geometry.

The lower level, which is rendered masonry, is solid, whilst the upper level, which is clad in translucent glass, reflects water. Tony Owen says that this house is all about the experience of space. The sensation of space should be tangible and should enhance the lived experience. You should feel it and touch it. In this house the experience of space involves slippage; one space slides into another space. This transition is enhanced by the use of materials. Different materials signify different layers or strata as in nature.

This can be seen in the living area where different layers of the curve slide over each other and blur the distinction between inside and outside.

This idea is continued in the use of light. On the lower level highlight windows are used to bring in the sky. The clarity of this light is contrasted with the solidity of the walls. Upstairs the light is more diffuse. The translucent or metal walls act like a membrane, reflecting or distorting the light like the ocean.

There is also a strong element of luxury in the house. The master bedroom has a wet bar and an open bathroom with a free-standing bath as the centrepiece; the shower and toilet are concealed behind a sliding translucent glass wall. Downstairs there is an outdoor shower off the street for hosing off after the beach. The open timber decking and stone wall here were designed to convey a sense of Bali.

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Considering the sculptural nature of the house, it had strong support from the council. This is partly because Brighton Boulevard is a very eclectic street. As a result, it was difficult to find a common character into which to fit. The form of the house, however, with its protruding carport and alignments, echoes those surrounding it. The form of the wing thrusts the main swish towards the street exposing it to passers-by, like at the outdoor cafés. Yet the use of the translucent screen maintains a certain sense of privacy.

Not surprisingly, given that the client owns glass supplier A Glass Apart, there is extensive use of glass on the interior. The walls of the main en suite are either full-height mirror or colour-backed glass. Timber veneer is used for the benchtops. The overall effect is a space that is ethereal yet warm. Much of the joinery, kitchens, bathroom ware and lighting were imported from China to reduce costs.

The overall effect is to take a suburban block and turn it into a sculpture of water and glass.

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