The idea of replacing the old cottage was to build a beautiful place for us to live that could also house our cherished art collection. The new indoor/outdoor design meant it was important to keep our established trees wherever possible. Bellevarde were sensitive to these factors and we have the house of our dreams and the trees survived unscathed.
The brief to Tim Greer, our architect, was to give it a sense of space, open, with generous high ceilings. Concrete, timber and glass in balance. We didn’t need ‘maximum rooms on the block’ so it’s three bedrooms and a library, but to us it’s much more.
From the outside, the first thing people notice are the vertical wooden slatted fence and gate, flawlessly realised by the Bellevarde team. The garage door, although quite heavy, glides effortlessly at the press of a button. We can’t praise our foreman Adam highly enough. Ours became a personal project for him and for that we are very grateful. A lesser foreman simply couldn’t have delivered this level of workmanship, and it continues throughout.
The entrance hallway is immaculately finished in concrete and wood and leads to the main living area. Adam overcame some serious challenges to make sure our oversized fireplace would sit flush with the surround. Despite these, it is perfect. One of our favourite spaces is the courtyard by the dining area which opens up to bring the garden in. The sliding ‘Stanley knife’ doors disappear completely and the deck wraps right around to the rear giving a feeling of openness that we love. Recessed gutters, made practically invisible by Adam’s team, allow water to escape without pooling in the door runners. All doors in the house slide except two, easily allowing light and breeze through.
Our seaside locale provided inspiration for the most striking part of the design, our wavy concrete ceiling. Six inches thick and made from solid concrete, it’s a remarkable feat of engineering and construction. From the prototype, which we still have as a sculpture, right through to the finished roof, thought and care from the Bellevarde construction team was on show. With all the hours of planning that went into its fabrication, we were amazed that something as simple as pre-wetting the Oregon slats to emphasise the grain could make such a huge difference to the end result. Bellevarde experimented, refined, reformed and built something very special. We think it’s gorgeous.
Adam brought his usual skill to overseeing the joinery work. We’d had custom chairs and tables made so it was important the joinery be of a similar standard. Adam ensured that the balustrade and all the timber work leading into the upstairs gallery space were of exquisite quality.
From the open corridor at the top of the stairs, surrounded by our favourite paintings and sculptures, we can see into almost every part of the house. Light is drawn in to the upper study and gallery areas from high windows. One extraordinary piece of building sees several different materials drawn from irregular angles to meet together in a perfect point. From up here, the success of the design and the beauty of the build come together for us.
Despite our marvellous ceiling, the crowning glory of the structure must be the concrete work. John Fielding has a long history building with concrete but we think this is some of the best he’s ever done. Large, intricate pours with no bubbles, cracks or seams. And certainly no jackhammers! We’ve had architects from the US and Japan comment that they would never see such fine concrete work in their home countries. It’s a privilege to be surrounded by a level of craftsmanship befitting of our respect for the artists whose work we admire. Bellevarde were a joy to work with, thoughtful and responsive—artists in their own right.