Grand Designs TV Houses

by Gemma Parkes

December 04, 2017

RIBA House of the Year 2017 winner: 5 design ideas from Caring Wood

Steal these innovative designs ideas from this contemporary English country house Photo credit: James Morris Built over 1400 sqm of Kent countryside, Caring Wood is…

This lozenge-shaped home, which featured on TV’s Grand Designs Australia, is as bold as it is unusual.

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Cate and Nick Foskett wanted a home that was unique to them, so their search in South Australia inevitably led them off the beaten track. But taking on a vineyard is no small feat, especially when neither owner – one a Silicon Valley whizz-kid and the other an opera singer – had any experience of cultivating grapes. After buying the vineyard, the pair took the radical step of studying viticulture at university while constructing their new home and running a farm. This wasn’t just a building project, it was a complete change of lifestyle.

Nick and Cate seized the chance to further their education and their careers. ‘I really enjoyed going back to university,’ says Cate. ‘I was finding my opera career less challenging and this was a good departure.’

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A commercial Shiraz and Chardonnay vineyard with a whopping 42 hectares, the land provided ample opportunity to create an unusual structure that offers more than meets the eye. An eye-shaped house was the chosen design, and the goal was to build a home that covered all eventualities. Nick and Cate worked with architect Max Pritchard on a structure that seems fairly ordinary from the exterior, but reveals its curves and connecting tower on closer inspection. ‘We wanted to create something that looks like a normal house, but as you get closer you see it’s more architectural than it looks. It’s certainly not your average rectangular box,’ says Nick.

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During the AU$20,000 excavation of the cellar space, Nick and Cate hit the jackpot – they discovered sandstone and decided to use this natural material to form the backbone of their home. In this part of the country, near McLaren Vale, most heritage properties feature this quintessentially Australian material. ‘Using sandstone will help the building speak the local vernacular,’ said Grand Designs Australia TV presenter Peter Maddison on the show. Constructed over a period of four months, using the skills of four stonemasons and 10,000 rocks, the sandstone wall serves as the main feature of the residence, and rightly so. Acting as the spine of the mainly open-plan home, it divides the common areas from the cinema, study and bedrooms.

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Described by Peter Maddison as a ‘triptych of cultures’, the build is composed of a leaf-shaped slab, the sandstone wall and steel panels that form a parabolic roof mirroring the curves of the floor. The structure quickly took shape, and it became clear that the simple, raw design allowed the house to sink into the landscape. Yet all builds come with setbacks: here, it was the delivery of different-coloured roof panels and a decision from Nick to chop the top off the curved ridge line of the roof, much to Pritchard’s surprise. But, as the adage goes, the customer is always right.

After the roof panels were fitted to the curved structure, work on the song tower began. The two-storey edifice houses a library and a rehearsal room for Cate. ‘This is my own unique space in the build,’ she says. ‘I can do whatever I want in here – it’s my little retreat.’

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Huge glass panels at the back of the main house were installed shortly afterwards, which pull in the view of the surrounding countryside and enable the changing light to influence the interior ambience.

Enter the home from the front and the double-height tower is before you. But turn left and the anticipation is heightened as you walk along a gallery, until you enter a vast open-plan living space that looks out to the landscape beyond and is connected to curved decking that wraps around the building’s rear. The generous master bedroom, with a spacious en-suite bathroom and dressing area, overlooks the garden. On the other side of the sandstone wall are a further three bedrooms, a cinema, a study, a bar and a pantry. It’s everything the couple could have dreamed of.

Daring to take on a large vineyard and build a house from scratch took courage, but for Nick and Cate the decision has paid off. They have created a space where every line leads you somewhere and, most importantly, blurs the boundaries between work, home and play.

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 Words: Annabelle Cloros, Photography: David Solm

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