Grand Designs Australia TV house Sri Lanka-inspired family-friendly home

This striking Grand Designs Australia build combines concrete finishes with the architectural inspiration of Sri Lanka to create a family-friendly home.

By Emma Wheaton | 5 May 2017

This striking Grand Designs Australia build combines concrete finishes with the architectural inspiration of Sri Lanka to create a family-friendly home.

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Ever since they bought their house in Hunters Hill, a prestigious Sydney suburb, Daniela Turrin and Niran Peiris dreamt of one day building a new home on the plot. Fourteen years later, the opportunity finally presented itself, and the couple came up with a design to replace the original 1970s timber-framed building. For inspiration, they turned to their family histories. Daniela is Italian and Niran is Sri Lankan, so they wanted to combine elements of styles from both countries in their new home, creating a cultural inheritance for their son, 11-year-old Calum.

‘We are both from quite rustic backgrounds,’ says Daniela, who inherited her love of building from her parents after they built their own house from scratch when she was a child. ‘We both grew up surrounded by traditional stone houses, so we wanted to bring some of those memories to the build.’ The final design is a Modernist-contemporary masterpiece, with elements of their cultural heritage intertwined. Instead of the stone of their childhoods, Niran and Daniela opted to use board-marked concrete, which perfectly combines Modernist style with the natural tactility of wood.

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‘We’ve been fascinated by architecture ever since we got married,’ says Niran. ‘We always knew we’d do this one day.’ After years of collecting ideas and gathering images and drawings, the couple had a clear vision of what they desired in a home. They knew it should feel connected to the nature around them and wanted to echo renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, whose buildings are always spilling over with leafy foliage. Plus, they were determined that the new building would reflect the one that stood on the plot before it, so they reused the timber boards to form moulds for the concrete slabs. Unusually for a dream project, the family planned a smaller house than the one they were pulling down, downsizing from four bedrooms to three, and filling in a swimming pool to create more garden space. ‘It’s not an investment,’ says Daniela. ‘It’s our forever home, so it doesn’t matter to us whether or not it has gained any monetary value.’

Once they had a clear design in mind, it was time to find an architect. Local firm Arkhefield’s work stood out. ‘It was really important to find a team who understood the aesthetic we were after,’ says Daniela. Thankfully, architect Graham Nottle was on the same page as the family. ‘The architecture needed to be organic and rich in texture, with natural materials and clean lines,’ says Nottle. ‘I knew Daniela and Niran wanted their home to be timeless. The challenge of combining Sri Lankan courtyards with Italian materiality appealed to me, too.’

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