Bruce Rickard has built three houses for his family; the first in 1959 at Warrawee, followed by Wahroonga in 1961 and Cottage Point in 1990.
This time, he decided to take the Cottage Point House and convert it into bedrooms and then add a new freestanding pavilion containing the living, kitchen and dining areas. The pavilion would be elevated above the ground to obtain the view and without the need for excavation. The two buildings would be connected by an entry porch and stairway, giving a lovely sense of separation between the zones.
In building his own homes, Rickard took the opportunity to experiment with various design elements and building techniques before using them on his clients’ houses. In the case of the Cottage Point House, he employed a grid of timber columns for the first time which allowed the house to be opened up in a way that hadn’t been possible before; letting it, essentially, blend quite effortlessly into the surrounding eucalyptus treetops and the quiet waters of Cowan Creek.
That openness and the immediacy with its environment were the first things architect Genevieve Furzer noticed about the four-bedroom split-level house when she and her husband Simon Kenny bought it 17 years ago, moving in with their three young children:
“It was so close to nature, you could really interact with it. Apart from the wildlife, it was things like lying in bed and watching the moon rise that made it a very special place to be.”
Like all Rickard houses, it’s incredibly livable. For starters, it faces north-east, to capture winter sun and minimize heat in summer. Windows are situated to get the best cross breezes, and the carefully positioned wide eaves of the house cut out harsh summer sun and allow in winter light. On top of that, it’s a house that’s broken into quite distinct zones, on different levels and, in some cases, completely separate from each other, and yet they all cascade around a courtyard with swimming pool.
It’s a house that works beautifully for family life, human in scale and with a balance of open spaces and private areas. It’s also a house in which, although close to the city, life can begin to feel like a holiday; walking straight from the bedrooms to a terrace or having dinner on the covered verandah, you feel a million miles from anywhere; sitting in the living area, all you can see are trees and the water.
Equally, with the built-in seating running the length of the living area and the ease of access between inside and out, it’s a house that is brilliant for parties. The living pavilion is surprisingly adaptable, a space that takes on a different character at different times of the day and night, and under different conditions. It’s closed on two sides – the side facing the street, for privacy, as well as on the south-west side. In the center of the room is a monumental stone fireplace which, in essence, divides the room into the “night living area” with the far more open kitchen, dining and verandah area at the other.
Plus there’s that whole swimming in the treetops thing.