A visit to David Boyle’s Pretty Beach studio reveals much about his unique approach to residential design. Tucked beneath his relaxed coastal home, the small, sunlit office opens onto a backyard brimming with fruit trees and an impressive vegie patch. With his days punctuated by visits from his children and the occasional wandering chicken, David creates artfully composed houses infused with a playful celebration of domestic life.
Since establishing his practice in 2002, David has earned an enviable reputation for creating strikingly individual houses on limited budgets. In 2004 he relocated to Pretty Beach, an idyllic corner of the Central Coast approximately 200 kilometres north of Sydney. Assisted by fellow architect James Fraser, David currently oversees an expanding portfolio of residential projects in Sydney and the surrounding coastal region.
David admits he has been relatively fortunate in terms of procuring work, having received extensive media coverage from the outset of his practice. His first major project, an extension to an inner-city bungalow, was widely published after receiving a commendation in the 2005 Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter Architecture Awards.
The Belmont Street residence embodies many of the key concepts that continue to drive David’s work. A fluid sense of space is created through the addition of several interconnected spaces that unfold towards a central courtyard at the rear of the house. While visually connected, each space is clearly defined through bold use of colour and varied ceiling heights. A mezzanine living area extends onto a raised deck and steps down to a kitchen and dining space half a level below. Housed within the timber deck, an integrated rabbit hutch provides a stylish home for the owner’s pet rabbits.
Such quirky details are a distinctive feature of David’s houses. The design of each house is viewed as a unique opportunity requiring a singular architectural solution. Designs are developed in response to a detailed client briefing process, resulting in houses that intimately respond to the daily lives of their inhabitants.
One of the most delightful aspects of David’s work is an overlay of art and architecture, with many projects incorporating site-specific artworks made by the architect himself. In the Albury residence a hand-painted mural softens the base of a two-storey extension at the end of a brightly tiled pool. With its repeated pattern of abstract forms inspired by the play of light on pool tiles, the mural provides an animated reflection on the dappled surface of the water.
The playfulness of the mural sits in marked contrast to the austere facade of the new structure, which reveals little of the activities within. The design responds to the cool winters and hot summers of the Albury region with a limited number of window openings. A central window on the ground floor overlooks the pool and casts shimmering patterns of light and shade into the studio inside. On the first floor a continuous slot window extends across three walls of the sitting room, capturing framed views of the nearby mountains.
David creates complex interiors on modest budgets through the creative use of simple materials, as demonstrated in the Bondi Junction residence. This project involved extensive alterations to a narrow terrace that had been previously stripped of its original detail. The owner was a builder who planned to do the renovation himself, allowing David to create a new layer of contemporary detail at little additional cost. “There was a freedom available to me,” he explains. “I could build things that were more complicated as long as they were made from an economical material.
Interior spaces are imbued with a sense of warmth and craftsmanship through the integration of custom joinery and sculptural artworks. The existing layout was rationalized to create a flowing sequence of interrelated spaces extending from the front door to a timber-lined courtyard at the rear of the property. A new kitchen and living area open onto the courtyard, drawing natural light and ventilation into the interior.
David’s respect for the heritage fabric of existing buildings is reflected in his sensitive additions to Newenden, a freestanding Victorian terrace in Sydney’s inner west. The site included a four-metre-wide strip of open space adjacent to the house, into which David inserted a raised pool. Hovering above this, an elegant ensuite addition bridges the gap between the existing house and the site boundary. The extension was constructed in a neutral palette of materials and set back from the main facade so as not to detract from the original building. “We were able to produce something that was quite contemporary, but when you look at it obliquely from the street you don’t even see it,” says David.
In contrast to the intensely urban environments of David’s Sydney projects, the Burridge-Read residence sits perched on a hillside overlooking Brisbane Water on the Central Coast. The sculptural appearance of the new building was inspired by the rugged rock outcrops of the surrounding landscape. With its weathered facade clad in a random pattern of timber battens, the structure blends effortlessly into its bushland setting. “It’s a strong building but it’s also a gentle, soft building,” says David. “It sits quietly in the bush.”
In many ways this beautifully simple building exemplifies David’s approach to residential design. Affordable materials such as plywood and fibre cement cladding are reinterpreted as decorative elements with inherent textural qualities. Fluid, internal areas are enriched by carefully composed overlays of colour and finely crafted joinery. Visitors are greeted at the entry by a concrete relief of a bush turkey, one of several artistic gestures that imbue the house with David’s signature playfulness.
The expressive form of the Burridge-Read residence also suggests a new direction in David’s evolving portfolio. With a growing number of houses set amongst the hills and bays of the Central Coast, an increasingly sculptural architectural language appears set to emerge in the work of David Boyle Architect.