Omeo house is designed for a couple, downsizing from a quarter acre block to a terrace sized plot in a new coastal subdivision. The clients wanted something unique and the town planning requirements for the location encouraged ‘landmark design elements’ for the specific site. This prompted us to explore the role a private residence can play in shaping a neighbourhood and how it could build architectural diversity.

As the end site to a series of terrace houses, we started by considering the house as an ‘ornamental’ bookend to standard terrace facades. Figuratively, the house takes its shape from the underbelly of the letter ‘O’, a reference to the name Omeo, a ship-wrecked Victorian barque which is visible from the site. The resulting swept form appears like a boat itself.

Making virtue of the local design guideline requirements for material difference for lower and upper levels, this form rests above an all timber lower section, much like a boat in dry-dock waiting to be launched.

The form above is built almost entirely of brick giving it weight through compositional mass and material and perhaps a somewhat civic quality rather than residential. The bricks are glazed white to the elevations and blue within the reveals, where their natural irregularities create a shimmering, textured façade. The glazed bricks were also a particular choice for a low maintenance facade in an exposed, coastal environment.

This horizontal split creates the planning rationale for the building’s internal arrangement: visitors on the ground, residence on top. The living spaces on level one are punctuated by internal courtyards and multiple balconies, broadening the amenity to this building to take full advantage of its location. The main balcony is an indoor-outdoor room with large sliding doors connecting it to the primary living area. Its orientation to the north-west, makes the most of the winter sun while sheltering it from the strong westerly summer breeze and winter storm fronts. The master bedroom maintains this connection to the outside through a private courtyard with a spa and lush greenery.