Balmoral House, Mosman


Clinton Murray and Polly Harbison, architects in association

Tony & Carol Berg

We saw the chance to enhance our lives with a house that reflects our deep interest in music and the arts...

when the site next to our Balmoral house became available in 2011.

Clinton Murray and Polly Harbison designed our beautiful weekend house in Bundeena in 2006. John, Mike Faulks and the Bellevarde team built it.

So of course, we called Clinton and John.

Building Bundeena with John had taught us how to minimise the emotional and financial costs of building a new house. The key is the time and effort you put in to identifying precisely what you want beforehand, so that the costs are clear and measurable. The more you leave to later, the more costs will overrun.

Over the following 12 months we met with Clinton and Polly often. We explored and clarified what we wanted our house to deliver and how best to release the potential of the site.

Through our often spirited but always rewarding discussions, the design emerged and resolved itself beautifully. It was inspired by a sculpture from Noguchi – a play on solid and void.

The distinct public face presents simply to the street - while offering passersby delightful views across and through the property into Middle Harbour — plus a wing that includes a music recital room — and part time table -tennis venue and gym.

Private areas offer commanding views of great joy to us.

The floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding the kitchen on level two silently disappear into the walls so you are effectively dining alfresco.

There is a three-storey staircase through the centre of the building that is both a work of art and a tribute to how well the architects, engineer Ken Murtagh and Bellevarde’s Mick Carroll, worked together.

The staircase appears effortlessly suspended in space.

Concealed within its construction, is a great deal of original thought and design, realised with technical excellence and ingenuity.

When foreman Adam Howe had to have an operation, Mick Carroll stepped in without missing a beat. And there was always John, ready with three solutions to any issue, chanting ‘cost and worth’.

We all enjoyed the building process as Clinton, Polly, Carol, I, John, Mick, Adam and the Bellevarde guys worked our way through every detail of bringing this house to life.

We recommend John and Bellevarde without hesitation to friends who love architecture and want to build challenging and rewarding homes to the very highest standards.

We do not believe anyone builds homes with more passion and integrity.

The finished house still takes our breath away.

Clinton Murray and Polly Harbison, architects in association

For me time stands still when I’m on a Bellevarde site.

You just can’t afford to rush your thoughts or actions. Best to hunker down, watch and listen.

In a sense you hand over your carefully crafted ideas on a velvet cushion and then watch quietly as those ideas are . . . perfected.

The cushion survives the journey unscathed, in mint condition.

Then all you want to do is start the whole process over again.

So as architects, we watch, laugh and marvel as our designs get ‘Bellevarded’! Polly coined this phrase for moments when clients questioned the cost of perfect execution. We would go to John advisedly and respectfully with the request, “please don’t fully Bellevarde that detail”. For John and his team there seems no reason to not ‘Bellevarde’ the whole show, and this, in my opinion, is the very reason they stand alone in an industry drowning in mediocrity.

When Bellevarde were introduced to the initial design ideas for Balmoral house, John’s interest was piqued as he realised that I wouldn’t be going down the ‘reclaimed timber’ road so evident in my early work.

Here at last was the beautiful off-form concrete house John had been waiting for from me.

The concept was - simple, carefully stacked, crafted boxes positioned to make the most of the views from the house and through the house.

John loved it– as much as the client.

The building program was typically ambitious and ultimately achieved. The complexities of the construction process were choreographed initially by Adam Howe and completed on Mick Carroll’s watch. Polly Harbison had the unenviable task of being my eyes and ears on site, but much more than this, Polly’s creative genius and total devotion to the cause, assured our clients would ultimately turn the key to a home that reflects their generous spirit and faith in art.

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