• Footpath view of the Assef house (Max Dupain).

20 Bulkara Road, Bellevue Hill, NSW, 1964–66

This two-storey, three-bedroom, flat-roofed residence, including a self-contained guest flat, was built to an L-shaped plan on a sloping site with sandy soil. External materials were face brick with deeply recessed white mortar, redwood (cedar) eaves, fascias and beams (coated with creosote oil), and glazing in floor-to-ceiling and clerestory formats.

Beside the wide driveway occupying half the site frontage, the house facade was a one-storey brick wall, including the front door to the upstairs guest flat, and set back from the footpath by a flat lawn elaborated with a spectacular garden of rocks, succulents, philodendrons and toi toi. Beside this, the concrete drive sloped sharply down to a double carport and the main house entrance at lower-ground level.

The entrance comprised a floor-to-ceiling triptych of glass, a California redwood door, and a decorative panel of articulated timber battens of Japanese inspiration. The two-storey west (rear) façade overlooked a split-level lawn, retained by stone boulders. This facade included vertical panels of horizontal battens (redwood 4 x 2s with 2 in spacing) at the southwest corner, deep terraces on both floor levels, a flight of six, wide steps leading from the lower terrace to the upper back lawn, and a redwood roof fascia.

The original flat roof was plywood sheets coated with Bradford coal tar pitch and gravel roofing membrane, but this system leaked and was replaced. The north (side) elevation included another vertical panel of battens at its west end, and was substantially glazed on both the lower living level and upper bedroom level. All rooms opened to either terraces or the upstairs balcony (narrower on this side than on the west).

On the north wall, two changes of floor level were marked by an outdoor staircase, from the upstairs flat to the breakfast and dining terrace, and an amoebic fishpond which flowed indoors and outdoors, beneath a sheet of window glass and beside travertine marble steps between the dining and living rooms. Another significant ground-level change occurred when the back lawn sloped sharply towards the west boundary. Along the south side of the house, a brick wall faced close neighbors, beside a landscaped path connecting the back lawn to the front driveway. Internally, the entrance lobby was distinguished by a staircase screened with battens of West Australian karri; creating spectacular shadow effects at certain times.

Under the staircase, a lush garden was naturally sunlit via the open stair risers and glazing beside the front door. From this lobby, white terrazzo tiles flowed through to the adjacent powder room, dining area, breakfast area and kitchen, as well as two sets of steps (north and south ends of the building) leading down to the carpeted living area and west terrace. The living area included sliding glass doors to the terrace; these were translucently curtained with a wool-acrylic fabric. The south wall of the living area was entirely brick with a horizontal storage cabinet of stained and waxed redwood floating along its length, concealing strip lighting. To the east, a wide fireplace and recessed bookshelving were set between steps and openings at the north and south ends of the room. The fireplace opened to both the living and dining areas; it was built of dark brown brick with a wide concrete lintel above the smokebox, and including a large planter box.

Three steps up from the living room, on the north side of the house, were an open dining room and small family area, divided by a trio of sliding shoji screens. The long galley kitchen included a breakfast bar, stainless steel benchtops, timber cupboards, linoleum splashbacks, imported Thermador appliances and a separate laundry. Northern sun brightened these areas via glass doors leading to a small terrace that was fenced from neighbours.

Upstairs, at the west end, three bedrooms and study opened off a sitting area and hall at the top of the stairs. They shared a typical Snelling L format of two single divans off a square timber-veneered corner unit incorporating bookshelves and bedheads. The study (with a storage room) and master suite (with an ensuite and dressing area) opened to the west balcony, which offered wide views over Bellevue Hill and Double Bay.

Occupying the east end of this level was the guest flat, with sliding glass doors on the north wall, a concertina vinyl screen allowing the small kitchen to be screened from the rest of the living-dining area, and curtains offering privacy to the open bedroom and bathroom.

Throughout the house, structural walls were cream face brick and others were stud walls faced with plasterboard or vertical timber panelling. Shadow-edge ceilings were detailed instead of cornices. All hinged doors were floor-to-ceiling and timber-veneered, with timber frames matching 3-in redwood skirtings and wider timber curtain pelmets.

The colours and soft furnishing scheme, designed by Marion Hall Best, included carpets and upholsteries of acidic gold and peacock blue, and lighting to accent the natural building materials. Scandinavian modern-style furniture was selected; including a dining suite with Tasmanian blackbean frames and peacock blue wool seat cushions, a Payne and Hurst lounge suite and kitchen bar stools imported from Scandinavia by Beard Watson.

Sources

—Assef, Abe and Olga. Personal communications and site visit, ca. July 2002.

—Construction. 1967. ‘Old colonial style returns to Sydney’, 3 January, p.1.

—Kalmar, Steven (ed.). 1967. ‘Give your home a view … and let the street take a back seat’, Sunday Telegraph (You and Your Home), 1 October, pp. 34–35.

—Pemberton, Gary J. 1984. Douglas B. Snelling: A Monograph of His Works (B. Arch dissertation). Sydney: New South Wales Institute of Technology.