When it comes to house design, steep blocks are challenging but thinking outside of the box can produce incredible results – just ask Steve and Szandi Swalling.
The couple 's luxurious home at Bunya makes innovative use of the block, with a signature swimming pool on top of the garage a definite attention-grabber. While the project wasn't without challenges, they were given the confidence to do it by owning the construction company coordinating the build and having faith in their team.
The final design was their third one – the first one was on one level, requiring too much excavation and the second one was simply "too outrageous."
Steve says they saw another house on a steep block with the front garage and the house on top and they thought they could do something like that.
Instead, they placed the pool above the garage, and built the house behind it.
The result is a resort-style mineral pool and spa bath, with white mosaic waterline tiles and pebble to create a sky blue colour that blends seamlessly into the horizon. This is enhanced by the glass panel fencing and two large windows which ensure visibility from the street of the engineering marvel.
“We wanted the kitchen and living space on one level and with the steep block, it was the only way we could do it,” Szandi says. “We also wanted to maximise the views.”
Steve says that section of the house is 750 tonnes, with a 0.5m thick suspended 13m slab which has three separate layers of steel.
A great challenge was creating this without posts in the garage, as was waterproofing.
But, the effort was worth it because the appearance is perfect, the pool is heated by the sun from about 7 am and the family can enjoy the view while taking a dip. When they realised how incredible the outlook was going to be, they increased the height of the doors connecting the outdoor area to 3 m to maximise the view and increase the flowing effect.
The build took about six months and the family moved in, in June.
“We love it,” Szandi says.
She says the children have a large step into the pool and they've used the heated spa all winter.
“We don’t need to go anywhere. We feel like this is our Airbnb at the coast,” Szandi says.
“We’re always up for having people over. Everyone wants to come to our place now.”
Steve says the spa wasn’t in the original design, but he’s glad they added it.
They both agree it’s a great use of the space above the garage. “It increases this living space. It flows right through,” Steve says.
So, as builders, do they think this is a design that could be replicated somewhere else?
“Yes. If you’ve got the budget for it and you’re looking for that lifestyle,” Steve says.
“Thinking outside the box comes with risks, but it also has rewards if you can pull it off. I love that we did it for ourselves first because we know what’s involved and can now do it for clients.”
Visit awardwinninghomeimprovements.com.au for details
STEVE’S BUILDING TIPS
Preparation: Know exactly what you want (design and finishes) before starting the build. Try not to make decisions on the run — it could prove costly
Be flexible: Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Be open to suggestions and prepared to accept changes quickly
Budget: Have a clear idea of your budget, but also have buffer for upgrades and unforeseen expenses. Also budget for landscaping
Timing: Don’t try to finish everything at once. It’s OK, and sometimes better, to add finishing touches after you move in
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