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Spanish delight approved

One of the things that I love about my career is the variety. Every new project is completely different to every project that I have ever done.

Here is a good example as my clients wanted to capture the look and ambiance of Spanish architecture for their new house overlooking the Spit and Middle Harbour. The traditional deep verandas work well in our climate too, and in this case, provide excellent shading for all the west facing glazing. Can't wait to see it built.


Narrabeen house completed

I chose a perfect spring day to visit John and Helen in their new lakefront house at Narrabeen recently.  They wanted a contemporary interpretation of the classic Hampton look, with modern features such as high raked ceilings, lots of glazing, and good solar winter access. The site is angled which did not allow a typical simple rectangular floor plan,  so the nett result is one of the most complicated rooves I have ever designed ( the builder agreed with this ! ).


MacMasters Beach house completed

Graham and Leanne have been enjoying their new house at MacMasters Beach, particularly the views over the southern end of the beach. The zig zag shape ensures that all rooms have access to the views, and creates an interesting streetscape ( in my humble opinion ). As always I am grateful to brave/adventuous clients who give me the opportunity to design houses on interesting sites like these - more photos in the gallery page.


Happy long term clients

A few years ago I designed a house for Janet and David overlooking Pittwater, and recently received this long term feedback from them:

"We have lived in our beautiful home for just over nine years.

 We love the fact that it is cool in summer and warm in winter, without the need for any air-conditioning and just a gas (jet master) fire in the winter.

 We have windows to the north to catch the sun in the winter. These are shaded by eaves which stops the sun getting in in summer.

 Though we have lots of windows to bring the outside in, Peter Downes made sure they were designed and placed so there is no need for curtains. 

 Our view is to the west so we have large windows to capture the view. Peter made sure that we had a large covering, a deck with a large roof, to shelter us from the westerly sun. He suggested that the deck be big (6M x 5M). We use it all the time as it is big enough for a dining table and lounges.

 Louver windows allow summer breezes. Double glazing keeps us warm in winter and blocks out noise.

 All-in-all it is a very comfortable home, one we love living in and one which makes us very happy."   

 it's very gratifying to know that the design has passed the test of time, long after the honeymoon period has finished.

More photos in Galleries - Owen and Forrester 

More awards..

At the recent Building Designers Australia annual national awards night, I won 4 more awards - 3 for the Wave House, and one for the Pitt House. Our MC for the night was gold medal winning Steve Bradbury whose life changed dramatically on the final corner at the winter olympics in 2002. This reminded me that I had a similar experience at a BDA conference in Melbourne in 1999. One of the presenters was a designer named Graham Jones who, like me, came to architecture later in life, but unlike me, had a business and marketing plan. I was hugely inspired and returned to Sydney determined to supercharge my architectural career, starting by engaging a business coach. I know that it's a cliche, but the rest is history.


Church Point waterfront project

Joe and Roses' waterfront project is coming along nicely with the house and granny flat nearly at lock up stage. The site is long and steep, and Joe (who is a builder) wanted to minimise expensive excavation, so these structures are supported on steel posts with little digging involved. The next stage is the 2 story garage which will include a car lift to increase off street parking within the footpint of a standard double garage. As is often the case with my designs, the main living area is on the top floor to maximise the views and winter solar access.


Newport house with radical swimming pool

Brad and Jillian's house at Newport is really taking shape, so the unusual pool design in now visible. Unusual because the pool has 2 stories below it, and the family room behind. The site constraints dictated this design, and I have sought to maximise the fun by adding 3 glass portholes to the face of the pool, with windows into the pool from the family room so that the dazzling views to the South can be enjoyed through the pool.

and now for something completely different....

Most of my projects are on steep challenging sites, and the resulting houses all fall into the contemporary category, whatever that means. So I was excited when John and Helen asked me to design a traditional Hampton house on their extremely flat lakefront site at Narrabeen. I couldn’t resist adding in some modern ideas like generous glazing and raked ceilings, and the site did have its’ own flood zone related challenges– under construction now.


Palm Beach House nearly finished (May 2017)

A tribute to the famous Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece Falling Waters is nearing completion after a long and detailed building process. No waterfalls here but amazing Pittwater views.

Macmasters Beach project taking shape (February 2017)

More excellent drone photos taken by the owners' son, this time showing some real progress with the ground floor slab poured, and some framing going up. For the first time we can envisage how this house will look from the street. The zig zag shape ensures that all rooms enjoy the views into the southern corner of the beach.

Bremer Bay WA (January 2017)

These recent drone photos really highlight the unique shape of this fun house. Sitting on a sandy ridge overlooking Bremer Bay, and with no visible neighbours, this project perfectly responds to the wild sparsley populated southern coast of Western Australia. 

Pitt House in Newport (December 2016)

Richard and Leslie Pitt have recently moved into their new house in Newport. This was probably the most difficult site I have ever worked on so well done to brave owner-builder clients.

Jacaranda House (November 2016)

Located in Sydney's northern beaches, this house has recently been finished, and the owners have moved in - just in time for the jackaranda tree in the front yard to be in full bloom.


Award for Waterfront House in Avalon (October 2016)

At the recent Building Designers Australia award night the waterfront house in Avalon received a commendation in the category of Alterations and Additions for over $500,000. This was an interesting project as it involved the addition of more bedrooms and bathrooms, a large games room, a swimming pool and a secondary dwelling - all downhill of the existing house. Because of the steep nature of the site, the secondary dwelling was located partially underneath the pool, and the games room was located behind the pool with windows into the pool. Several new decks were added and the main living area was substantially enlarged.  The house now provides the resort lifestyle that the owners wanted.


Bremer Bay WA (September 2016)

One of my favourite houses is under construction on the south coast of WA. These photos all come from the amazing blog that the owners Peter and Frizz have been regularly updating, and it's exciting for everyone to the see this unusual house taking shape.


Wright House nearly finished (July 2016)

I dropped in to visit Trudy Wright a couple of weeks ago for a guided tour of her new house overlooking Lake Munmorah.  This house was built on a modest budget using simple materials, but the result is a delightful beach house with an informal charm, and blends in well with the surrounding houses and coastal location. A local builder has has done a great job and I am looking forward to the house warming party.

Avalon House nearly finished (June 2016)

The house in Avalon is nearing completion, and with the scaffolding down the whole form is finally visible, including the wave which adds some relief to the long western wall – I love the sandstone too. Avalon House nearly finished (June 2016)


Pitt Project at Newport (May 2016)

Dropped in recently to see the progress for Richard and Lesley's new house at Newport, and it really taking shape with the framing nearly finished. The roof will be going on next which should be interesting as it is going be a sandwhich constuction product consisting of top and bottom layers of corrugated steel with polystyrene in betweem resulting in structure, ceiling and insulation all in one.


Happy clients at Northbridge at Newport (April 2016)

recently submitted a new house at Northbridge ( Sydney ) overlooking middle harbour for Nic and Mark, and without any prompting Nic posted this review on the Houzz website :

Peter is a pleasure to work with. 
He has designed our new upside down home and we can't wait to start building it. 
He pays attention to detail. 
He never has to be chased up as he is always thinking once on your job. 
He is professional and knowledgable . 
You can tell he loves what he does.

I love happy clients !

As is often case, I have located the main living area on the top floor opening onto a large NE facing balcony to maximise the views.


Dramatic WA project (February 2016)

Peter and Frizz's new house will be built on the south coast of WA this year. They own a large site overlooking the ocean, so there were no boundaries or neighbours to restrict the design. This is one my favourite designs and I am looking forward to having a celebratory beer on the deck.


Wright house started (January 2016)

Trudy's new house overlooking Lake Munmora on the Central Coast of NSW is now well underway which must be exciting after a few unexpected delays. This is a beautiful area, and not far from Sydney via the freeway. More photos soon

Award for the Jones house (December 2015)

The Jones house at Clareville recently received a commendation (ie second place) at the recent Building Designers Australia national conference in Hobart. This is my 51st award, and here is what the judges had to say "the site is wide and has excellent views looking North up Pittwater, so the sweeping curves provide panoramic access to the views from nearly all of the rooms.  North aspect and water views are a rare combination and this stunning design maximises the benefits."

Congratulations also to the builder Adam Anderson, and to the clients Philip and Jennifer for choosing me to design their dream home - more photos in the galleries page.


Falling Waters tribute at Palm Beach (November 2015)

One of the most interesting houses I have designed in the last few years is nearing completion at Palm Beach. The owner is a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his most famous house “Falling Waters”, which supplied the inspiration for our project.

The house had to be totally redesigned to suit the site and Council requirements, but we managed to capture the spirit of the original house.

Fun project at Balmoral Beach ( October 2015 )

The owners of this beautiful house overlooking Balmoral Beach are finding the 12m ( vertical ) hike from the garage to the living area a bit of a struggle, particularly on rainy days.  But they don't want to leave their beloved family home, so  I have added a lift well to the front of the house, connected to the existing garage via a curved tunnel under the front yard. Circular skylights set into the garden will light up the tunnel.

Large glass windows in the liftwell will provide excellent harbour views from the lift which should make the ride quite dramatic.

Another blast from the past ( September 2015 )

About 20 years ago I designed a small octagonal house on an odd shaped site as part of a dual occupancy at Allambie Heights in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

It is has recently come up for sale and the agent managed to track me down for some background.

I think that it’s a great example of something that is missing from the market place ie a modern, small well designed free standing house. Our society seems to be building increasingly large family homes or apartment blocks, and nothing in between.

 For more photos and details see:



Bulli house finished ( August 2015 )

Dennis and Sarah and family have moved into their completed ( almost ) house at Bulli. Located on an elevated corner block, there are excellent views to be enjoyed from most rooms up and down the nearby coast. The house is "L" shaped in plan view which has created NE facing balconies at both levels to maximise access to the winter sun. The imposing Colorbond clad tower contains the stairwell, and provision for a future lift. It's always very satisfying to see my clients reach the end of their own personal Grand Design adventure.

The magic of Pittwater ( June 2015 )

Jennifer and Philip Jones have been enjoying their sea change after moving into their new house at Clareville recently.  This is an excellent site which they bought a few years ago on my advice.  It is generously wide which offered a lot of design freedom, and has the rare combination of water views and north orientation. The long curved balconies maximise the majestic sweep of the views, and add a panoramic feel - more photos in the galleries page.


Blast From the Past ( May 2015 )

This is a house that I designed in collaboration with owner/builder Eric Sanderson back in the late 90's, but didn't have a chance to photograph before he sold it to the current owners Tony and Robyn. They recently had the exterior walls repainted so I couldn't resist asking photographer extraordinaire Michael Simmonds to work his usual magic. The design is based on an octagon with a central spiral stair. More photos in the galleries page.

Kopuz house almost finished (April 2015)

The Kopuz family waterfront home at Hunters Hill is nearly finished so  I grabbed a few photos before they finish moving in. This was a very difficult construction on a steep site, and owner/builder Steve has done an amazing job.

Beesley House photos (March 2015)

Builder Ian Lisney sent me some photos of the completed Beesley house recently, and here is a sneak preview. The southern end reminds of a classic ocean liner ( not the Titanic ! ). This house was the result of an interesting site, adventurous clients and an excellent builder, and I think that the design is OK too.


Major excavation at Newport (January 2015)

Richard Pitt is building a new house on a very challenging site at Newport ( steep, difficult access, water course – it’s got the lot ).

Great Pittwater views though, and the excavation exposed a naturally occurring sandstone cliff roughly where he was intending to build a retaining wall – fortune favours the brave.

 Here is his progress to date, and a glimpse of the views.


Copacabana views revealed (December 2014)

I met Robyn and Scott at their Copacabana house recently to check on the progress, and to see the wonderful views for the first time. This involved some slightly nerve wracking climbing, but it was worth it as the views were better than we all had imagined. As you can see in the photos, the house is an interesting shape with lots of angles, which is a result of the shape of the site, and the direction of the views.


MacMasters Beach house approved (November 2014)

Graham and Leanne's new house overlooking MacMasters Beach has just been approved, and we are now working on the Construction Certificate. In addition to the usual steep slope that inevitably goes with great views, this project also had setback non-compliance, view loss and solar access issues to be overcome. Prelodgement negotiation with the Council smoothed the way for a swift approval with no objections. The zig zag design provides access to the views from all rooms, and adds significantly to the street appeal - can't wait to see this one built.

More awards (October 2014)

At the recent Building Designers Australila national conference, I won 2 more awards, bringing my total up to 50. The awards were for Len and Sue's new house at Curl Curl, and Christine and Michael's alteratations and additions at Avalon. The latter is the smallest project that I have done for years, and demonstrates that good design applies at all budgetry levels, and is not restricted to expensive projects.


Bulli house taking shape (October 2014)

Dennis and Sarah's new house on the coast south of Sydney is really coming together now with the first part of the top floor erected. According to Dennis, the coastline views from the bottom floor are much better than they were expecting, so they are really looking forward to standing on the top floor for the first time - should be soon.


Ewings Clarke house finished (October 2014)

I did a Kevin McLoud last week and went to visit Greg and Linda about 6 months after they moved into their completed waterfront house at Church Point to see how they had settled in. Very well was the answer, particularly on the beautiful sunny day that I chose. Their site has the rare combination of waterfront and due north aspect , and the house has been designed to take maximum advantage of this happy arrangement. This project involved significant alterations and additions to an old house that would usually have been a knock down, but it was much closer to the water than the current rules allow, so we made the decision to work around the existing house to take advantage of the proximity.


Walter house photos added to galleries page (September 2014)

Photographer extraordinaire Michael Simmonds managed to beat the rain and grabbed a whole bunch of stunning photos of the Walter house at Curl Curl on a sunny day - see them all  at   http://www.peterdownes.com.au/page/walter.html. Here are a couple of samples that show the dramatic angles, and the equally dramatic views.


More houses started (August 2014)

Construction has started on the Toole/Black house at Bulli, the Pitt house at Newport, and the McClung house at Copacabana. Getting out of the ground is always slow and messy, but it's a good to be through the long design and approval process, and see some action on site.


Airlie Beach design (July 2014) 

The design of Michael Kalin's new house at Airlie Beach is just about finished. The site is elevated with excellent views, and the chosen design consists of 2 pavilions linked by a glass stairwell. The upper pavilion is half a storey higher than the lower pavilion to deal with the slope, and it demonstrates my philosophy of using the simplest design that will meet the client's brief while also responding to the site characteristics.


Avalon transformation (July 2014)

Michael and Christine wanted to add some streetscape interest to their house in Avalon, and to improve access to the Pittwater views which the original designer had somehow failed to notice. I quickly realised that the lounge room also needed a lot more light and ceiling height, so I proposed an elevated L shaped roof over it and the foyer, which achieived both these aims, and also dramatically improved the appearance of  the existing house. Rendering and painting the outdated brick work, and replacing the front doors completes the transformation. 

Walter house finished too (April 2014)

Congratulations to Sue and Len who have recently moved into their completed new home at south Curl Curl. This is the steepest site I have ever worked on, so presented a few challenges for the builder, and the designer! It's all been worth the effort however with views like these, and Len and Sue are very happy with design. I will have this professionally photographed soon and added to the galleries page, but here are some teaser photos.

Modern House Design in Sydney New Home Designs Designer House in Australia



Beesley house finished (March 2014)

Just a couple of weeks before the Walters moved into their new house at Curl Curl, Bob and Liz Beesley moved into theirs at Collaroy. The main feature of this house ( apart from the amazing views up the coast ) is the triangular shaped site which resulted in a similar shaped house - every house is different because every site is different. More photos soon.  


Kopuz house taking shape  (February 2014)

I dropped in to the Kopuz site recently, and they have made great progress since I was last there. The 4 storey house is being built on a very steep waterfront site at Hunters Hill, but the worst of the building is now behind them. With the top floor poured and the roof framing completed, the final form of the house is now starkly visible, and the full range of the views from the top floor now realised, including, unexpectedly, the top of Sydney Tower. This site has views to the east up the Parramatta River towards the city skyline, and also NE views over a bushy bay with the Chatswood skyline in the background - should be magic at night, and at sunrise, and with a full moon rising - can't wait to see the finished house.

Bulli house approved   (January 2014)

Dennis and Sarah approached me last year after buying an interesting corner block with great north and south coastline views, and this is the approved house. The boundaries were all at different angles which are reflected in the final shape. This project is also a good example of an "upside down" design with the main living areas and main bedroom on the top floor. This configuration maximises the views to those rooms in both directions, offers the option of interesting ceiling lines, and ensures plenty of solar access in winter. The family room is on the bottom floor and opens onto a covered balcony which in turns flows to a level lawn leading to the pool. 





Building is exciting !   (December 2013)

There is something about building a new house that excites most people, even if it someone else's house. I have been designing and/or building things since I was a kid, and professionally for 44 years, and it still blows me away to see one of my designs under construction. It is obviously a basic human instinct, which I guess explains the popularity of shows like Grand Design etc.

Here are some photos of 4 of my projects that are currently under construction in Sydney's Northern Beaches Area ( where I live ), all on challenging sites with great water views.




Building on bushfire prone sites (November 2013)

The recent fires around Sydney have made re-building on the affected sites a hot topic ( no pun intended ), and I have heard a lot of uninformed debate on the radio.

About half of the houses that I design are on sites classified as bush fire prone ( the Council usually makes this determination ). This is partly a reflection of the interesting projects that I get to work on, which are often near reserves or in bushy areas, but also because of new Australian standards that have resulted from catastrophic bushfire incidents in the last couple of decades. Typically the first step in the process is to engage an accredited bush fire consultant who will evaluate the site and provide a BAL ( bushfire attack level ) rating. These come in several categories - BAL 12.5, BAL 19, BAL 29, BAL 40 and BAL 40 + ( flame zone ) - note BAL 29 = 29 kw per M2 of radiant heat.  Some sites have 2 different BAL ratings, as the rating decreases with distance from the fire source, and orientation of the house.

For each level, there are construction rules to be complied, and predictably, they become tougher as the BAL level increases. Generally it is easy to comply using readily available materials, and with negligible compromises to the design.

Windows and doors that have been tested in the higher categories are coming onto the market at an increasing rate, thus providing more design options. Generally complying houses look exactly the same as houses on unaffected sites.

So in summary, this is one more hurdle to be jumped on the way to Council approval, but generally it is easy to deal with the correct procedure and attention to detail, and definitely for a worthy cause.

Major awards for the Church Point residence, and a Grand Designs Australia Magazine feature   (October 2013)

At the recent Builder Designers Australia awards event, this project won a total of three awards including Best New Residence over 450 m2, Best Use of Colorbond and Best Use of Weathertex. The Anstiss residence also earned a commendation in the 350 to 450 m2 category for new residences.  All the award results can be read in the Winning Design magazine  http://asp-au.secure-zone.net/v2/index.jsp?id=15/22/3497&lng=en

 The Church Point house earlier this year attracted the attention of the editor of Grand Designs Australia magazine, and the result is a 10 page feature article in the current edition.

Overcoming the challenge of one of Church Point's steepest blocks, this new home looks out over one of the most highly sought-after views in Sydney.  View It Online!

Also see the galleries page for lots of photos.

Tozer project underway in WA (October 2013)

Peter and Frizz have made good start on their rural site overlooking the ocean at Bremer Bay, on the southern coast of Western Australia. First step was to install the power supply, which is always a big deal on larger sites. Now they are working on the garage which will act as a site shed and storage for building the house.


Klopfer house moving along (September 2013)

Garry and Jill's new house at Bilgola Plateau is now proceeding nicely after the usual slow process of exacavation and footings. The steelwork will go up next and we will soon be able to see the shape of the house taking form.



Palm Beach project through the most difficult part (September 2013)

Few sites present as many challenges as this one at Palm Beach. Steep, covered in trees, and access only possible via a long and expensive elevated concrete driveway. However builder Mark Romeo has managed to overcome all these issues, so the driveway has been completed, the trees are gone, and the difficult excavation has been done. Now they can start building the house! The views definitely help make the efforts worthwhile.


Caruso family holiday resort in WA (September 2013)

This design of this 7 bedroom resort style house is nearing completion. The 80 Ha site is located a couple of hours south of Perth, and adjoins the beach for about half a kilometre, and the house will sit on a sand dune overlooking the Indian Ocean.

 The zig zag shape was inspired by the stealth bomber, and provides options for the dealing with the westerly sun and variable sea breezes.



Preston house nearing completion (August 2013)

Scott and Rebecca's new house at Fivedock is in the final stages. so soon they will be able to enjoy the North East harbour views that the house has been designed around. The main living area and the main bedroom both have diagonal windows for this purpose, which also makes the house more interesting.    


Hanson house approved (August 2013)

Rod and Jeanette's new holiday house has recently been approved by Pittwater Council. The clifftop site runs east west, so the design incorporates lots of north facing windows to allow in the winter sun and summer breezes to all of the rooms on the top floor.


Beesley house rocketing along (August 2013)

Perfect building weather for the last few months has helped of course, but the builders Ian and Michael Lisney and his team can take a lot of the credit.


Palm Beach project at Palm Beach underway (July 2013)

This is one of the most unusual designs I have ever completed, and as usual, it was driven by an adventurous client. This project is being built on a very difficult site with a long suspended concrete access driveway, so it will be a while before I can add some photos of the house, but this is what it will look like when finished.

McClung house approved at Copocabana (June 2013)

Another steep site with great ocean views, and brave owners. More photos once construction starts.


Ewings/Clarke house well underway (May 2013)

The major transformation of Linda and Greg's existing waterfront house is nearly to lock up. The old house was just about at the end of it's life and normally I would recommend demolition to create a lot more design options, and generally this is also the cheaper option. This project was an exception as the existing house was much closer to the water than current rules allow, so keeping it was a no brainer. A new boatshed was part of the brief, and this is one of the few structures that are allowed seaward of the foreshore building line.


The Cordony house at Wombarra is for sale (May 2013)

The house was featured in the SMH recently - http://www.smh.com.au/domain/-2f6vq.html. Wombarra is part of a beautiful and rugged stretch of the coastline about an hour south of Sydney, and is a popular area for holiday houses for successful city dwellers who want an easy escape from the hustle and bustle.  

For more photos, have a look at http://www.peterdownes.com.au/page/cordony.html

Happy clients ! (May 2013)

Construction has started on the new house for Bob and Liz Beesley, and here is a quote from a letter that I have just received from them.

"Peter - we have thoroughly enjoyed working with you. You have guided us to a design that we are thrilled with, and meets our needs. We look forward to seeing the finished product, and hope that ours is the first of many of your homes in Collaroy."

The site is an interesting, steep triangular shaped block in the foothills of Collaroy Plateau, with views over FishermansBayand all the way up to Palm Beach. This is what their house will look like once it is finished – interesting shaped sites always result in interesting shaped houses.


Building on bushfire prone sites (May 2013)

About half of the houses that I design are on sites classified as bush fire prone. This is partly a reflection of the interesting projects that I get to work on, which are often near reserves or in bushy areas, but also because of new Australian standards that have resulted from catastrophic bushfire incidents in the last couple of decades.  Typically the first step in the process is to engage an accredited bush fire consultant who will evaluate the site and provide a BAL ( bushfire attack level ) rating. These come in several categories - BAL 12.5, BAL 19, BAL 29, BAL 40 and BAL 40 + ( flame zone ) - note BAL29 = 29 kw per M2 of radiant heat.  Some sites have 2 different BAL ratings, as the rating decreases with distance from the fire source.

For each level, there are construction rules to be complied, and predictably, they become tougher as the BAL level increases. Generally it is easy to comply using readily available materials, and with negligible compromises to the design.

So in summary, this is one more hurdle to be jumped on the way to Council approval, but generally it is easy to deal with the correct procedure and attention to detail, and definitely for a worthy cause.

More houses for sale (April 2013)

Must be the season for downsizing as three of my earlier projects are also currently up for sale.

The Townsends were determined to maintain and enhance the character of the quaint fishing shack they purchased a few years ago, so rather than knock it down, we raised the old house up a steel frame, and then added attached wings to the rear to create a central courtyard, and a long carport along the western side.The existing house was re clad and internally modified, with extensive use of recycled timber. The extra height created parking for lots of cars and boats etc underneath, and provided much better access to the northerly views up Pittwater.Caroline and Mark also decorated the house with period furniture and fittings, and the builder Tony Berner can take great credit for craftsmanship involved with all the timber.

For sale details, go to http://monavale.ljhooker.com.au/100FF6Kor contact LachlanElder on (02) 9979 8000 

For more photos, see http://www.peterdownes.com.au/page/townsend.html 



The Stokoe house in Avalon was another major alterations and additions project, completed in 2 stages. The first involved additions to the rear including a large garage, extra bedrooms and bathrooms, and a covered entertaining area which connected the house to the previously inaccessible backyard. For the stage we enlarged the front of the house with bigger kitchen, dining and lounge areas, and a larger deck over looking Pittwater.

For sale details – go to http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-nsw-avalon-113015703, or contact Steven Crooks on 0405 218 888 




The Lees house has a very interesting history. Originally built in the 60’s, it features a curved design inspired by the restaurant Catalina at Rose Bay which in turn was named after the flying boats that used to be based there, and provided adventurous access to Lord Howe island. Another house whose character we wanted to maintain, we demolished and rebuilt the top storey, and added a wing to the southern end.



For sale details, go to -   http://avalon.ljhooker.com.au/BNCF58or contact David Watson on 0414 441 111

For more photos, see - http://www.peterdownes.com.au/page/lees.html

Surfing connection (April 2013)

Smorgasboarder is a free high quality multi gendre surf magazine that is distributed in Australia and New Zealand. The latest edition feaures a comprehensive article on yours truly, focusing on the surfing and career connection. I have been surfing since 1965, and this lead me to explore the coast of Oz which in turn resulted in settling in Avalon ( in the Northen Beaches of Sydney ). This eventually turned out to be a brilliant ( unplanned ) career move as I was perfectly placed for my career to evolve into designing beach houses all around this great country. Here is a link to their website http://www.smorgasboarder.com.au/.

And here is the cover of the relevant edition - the article is titled "Life is Beachy" and starts on page 85.


 Special thanks to Dave from Smorgasboarder

Kopuz house underway (February 2013)

Sites don't come much steeper than this one, so it is a great achievement for the owner/builder Steve Kopuz to have completed the excavation and poured the lowest floor.More photos as the house progresses



2 more northern beaches projects approved (January 2013)

This one is for Richard and Karla Heggie at Elanora Heights. The existing house, which sits on a 2Ha ( 5 acres ) rural site with spectacular bush, lake and ocean views, is quite substantial, and the owners wanted to improve the indoor and outdoor living areas, to add a guest wing and to increase the car parking. Working around the kink in the existing building, we added a large covered entertaining area to the eastern side, and a family room to the western side, and then opened the space in between to create a spectacular room with vaulted ceilings and views to the ocean.




The second one
 is on an interesting sloping site at Freshwater. The existing 3 storey house is quite well built so we left that mostly untouched, and added a second 2 storey pavilion linked by a connecting wing which wraps around a beautiful spotted gum. This wing will underneath a roof top garden and a car parking area which will create the illusion of 2 separate buildings.


Stevens house at Whale Beach for sale (December 2012)

Alex and Kim have decided to put their spectactular holiday house up for sale. This is a rare opportunity to aquire a brand new Peter Downes designed house with some of the best views in the Northern Beaches. See a video tour of this property .

It has recently been featured on the covers of Domain, the Manly Daily real estate lift out, and the Telegraph Home Living Magazine. Contact Glenn Lee at Raine and Horne at http://www.palmbeachrealestate.com.au/sale/27rayner.htm



Stairwell photos (December 2012)

Some of the most dramatic photos of my houses involve stairs. This is not surprising as the stairwells provide a unique opportunity to play with some interesting geometry, and feature lots of height. This is a recent one from the waterfront house at Church Point in which the stairs are part of a 4 storey high void with a water feature at the bottom. We will soon be adding a new gallery dedicated to all of my favourite stair photos.



Jones house almost finished (November 2012)

Here are some photos sent from the owner's Iphone. The main feature of this site is the wide panoramic view up Pittwater which the sweeping curves of the living areas perfectly capture. The curved front walls and balconies, when combined with some interesting side wall angles, make this house a dramatic contrast to the square boxy designs that are trendy at the moment - I see no point in copying everyone else in a sheep like manner. We will add photos to our gallery section once the house is finished and furnished.



Asymmetrical surfboard (October 2012)

I have been surfing since 1965, and made my own boards back in the 70's. Being a designer, I couldn't help experimenting and invented an asymmetrical board circa 1980. I have recently had a new version made, and it works brilliantly in small to medium waves, backhand and forehand. The yellow side is forehand, and the fins on that edge are parallel to the stringer for better down the line speed.  Please contact me if you would like to know more about it.



More awards ! (September 2012)

At last week's Building Designers Association of NSW awards presentation event, the Stevens house at Whale Beach won best new house ( 251 to 350 m2 ). The Gibbs house at Balgolwah won Best Use of Colorbond for the roof cladding and Best Use of Weathertex for the wall cladding.

These awards and the associated industry and public recognition confirm that our policy of always designing to the highest possible standards is working. See the Galleries page for photos of the completed Stevens house.





Church Point Waterfront approved (August 2012)

This Pittwater site is a rare combination of deep waterfront and northerly aspect. The project included substantial modifications to the existing house, a new boatshed and ramp, a new jetty, pontoon and boatpen, a new garage and carport, and a new inclinator.  Normally I advise knocking down old houses and starting with a blank canvas, but in this case the existing house was much closer to the water than current rules allow, so it was definitely worth keeping. Plus the old house has a certain charm that Greg and Linda were keen to maintain. The approval for the pontoon etc involved the Dept of Primary Industries ( Fisheries ), Sydney Waterways Authority, the Department of Crown Lands, and finally the Council - a minefield of red tape that had to be negotiated.  



Another Pittwater approval (August 2012)

This steep Newport site presented some challenges as the owners wanted a sunny entertaining area ( with a pool ) facing the spectacular southern ocean views. The only solution was to position the entertaining area and pool on the top floor, with floors containing the family room, secondary bedrooms and garage underneath. The porthole windows in the pool are aligned with matching windows in the family room behind, which should be fun.



Golden Oldie (August 2012)

I was trolling through some older projects recently and came across this classic cottage that I designed at Balgowlah back in the early 90's.  A world away from my current work, but still a lot of fun. This photo highlights one of the things that I love about architecture, and that is the amazing variety of sites and clients.



Mountain goat territory (July 2012)

Len and Sue Walters' site at Curl Curl is the steepest block I have ever worked on. Amazingly, it had never been built on - until now. It will be worth the effort though, with brilliant views out to sea, and up and down the coast. It is 14m in height from the garage to the kitchen, which is nearly 5 stories. Access is via an inclinator, or lots of stairs for the very fit. Excavation has only just started, so I will add more photos as the construction progresses.





Preston house started (June 2012)

Scott and Rebecca's house is now under construction at Five Dock. Not quite waterfront but great harbour views.

The Council forced us to comply with their conservative streetscape rules, but we had some fun at the back. More photos soon.


Hunters Hill approval (April 2012)

It's taken a while but we now have approval for the Kopuz family home on their waterfront site at Hunters Hill. The slope made it impossible to comply with the Council's 2 storey height limit, so we overcame this by dividing the building into 2 halves separated by a strip of vegetation to create the illusion of 2 dwellings. There is an underground connecting stairwell, and a glass walled lift that emerges from the garden ( all very James Bond, especially with a pool over the lower pavilion ). The views aren't too shabby either.





Colour your world (April 2012)

For years I have been attempting ( with various degrees of success ) to pursuade my clients to use bold colours to highlight the interesting internal wall and roof geometry that I have created for them. This can add a lot of interest to a house at virtually no cost. I recently put my money where my mouth is and had my own house fully repainted using lots of bright colours, and the transformation has been dramatic - more photos in the galleries section.



Klopfer house has started (April 2012)

Gary and Jill have been waiting patiently to see some dust flying on their Bilgola Plateau block. There was an old house that needed to be knocked down ( a good thing too as there was asbestos sheeting hidden under the weatherboards ), but it is gone now, so assuming that the dry weather continues, things should progress rapidly now. The angled rear of the house helps preserves the neighbours diagonal views, and provides options for dealing with the winds coming from different angles. 



Tozer house approved (April 2012)

Located on the far south coast of WA, Peter and Frizz's 8 ha site has excellent ocean views, and offered unlimited geometric freedom with no setbacks or neighbours to worry about, and clients who wanted something a bit different. In other words, every designer's dream come true. This is the result.





Jones house underway (March 2012)

After endless delays due to rain, builder Adam Anderson finally has this project out of the ground, and it is now flying together. The house has been designed with a curved glass front at both levels so that all rooms take advantage of the views up Pittwater to Lion Island.





Another Pittwater approval (February 2012)

Anthony and Sylke Claridges bought their Newport site after seeking advice from me re it's suitability for their dream home. It had great views over Pittwater, but faced west, and was fairly steep. I knew from experience that these issues could be overcome with good design, so persuaded them to buy it. Here is the approved house.



Best Coastal Homes (January 2012)

2 of my clifftop projects, both overlooking the ocean in Sydney's Northern Beaches, were chosen for inclusion in this recently published prestige architectural book. They are the Hegarty house at Warriewood, and the Milpete house at Newport. The book is on sale now.



 Avalon waterfront project completed - go to galleries page (December 2011)

This is a major addition to a grand old waterfront house overlooking Pittwater in Sydney's northern beaches. The new work spread over 4 levels includes an enlarged living area, several new decks, new bedrooms and bathrooms, a new pool, a new large games room ( with windows into the pool ). and a 2 storey self contained flat under the pool ! An interesting mix of old world charm and modern lifestyle, for adventurous clients.



Stevens house finished - go to galleries page (December 2011)

This rare vacant site at the south end of Whale Beach offered some of the best views that I have ever seen, and facing north too, which is a rare combination on the east coast of oz. The zig zag front is a lot more fun than just a straight glass wall, and helps focus the view on the sweep of Whale Beach.




Avalon house approved (November 2011)

The old house on a nice north facing corner block in a quiet street in Sydney's northern beaches was falling apart, so the owner asked me to design a new house that would maximise the good aspects of the site. The resulting house features a large open plan living area with balconies at each end, and highlight windows facing east to offer sky and tree top views, and to capture the morning sun. Some of these windows are louvres so will also assist with cross flow ventilation. Below these windows is a large expanse of wall for the owner's art collection, and the stained timber ceiling and floor will also be strong features. Like myself, my client is a keen surfer so I couldn't resist adding a wave to the western exterior wall !




Leete and Johanson house approved (September 2011)

What a site! Another one without all the usual design restrictions, and beautiful ocean and mountain views. I couldn't resist designing a curved house for Paul and Lindy to fully encompass the 180 deg plus views. Construction has started but only footings so far.




Church Point project completed (August 2011)

Building sites don't come much more difficult than this waterfront site at Church Point. Steep, narrow road,complex design, existing trees to preserve, and overhead power lines in the way. Builder Greg Hunter has overcome all of these issues and produced a very special house. This will be added to the galleries page soon, but here is a sneak preview. 



International Recognition

The Heise house ( see gallery 3 ) was chosen in 2006 to be featured in a worldwide publication featuring some of the greatest historical and living Architects including Frank LLoyd Wright, Harry Seidler, Glen Murcutt and Sir Norman Foster. The book is titled " Home - design and architecture from prehistory to today ", and is published in Australia by Viking. This inclusion is a great honour and demonstrates that our designs rank amongst the best the world has to offer.

Building On Steep Sites

It is now common practice around the coast of Australia, and particularly in the Northern Beaches for new houses to be built on steep sites that a few decades ago would have been considered to be structurally and economically unifiable.

In fact it was not uncommon for banks to refuse mortgages on these sites due to the Geotechnical risks.

Four major changes have occurred since those earlier days, so that these properties are now highly sought after.

The first major change is improved awareness of Geotechnical, Civil and Structural Engineering issues and construction techniques. Pittwater Council’s recently upgraded Landslip Hazard Policy was originally instigated by Warringah Council in response to numerous houses sliding down the slope in the early seventies, particularly in the Pittwater area. Since the introduction of that policy , a Geotech report has been mandatory on any site considered to be at risk. The Geotech Engineer is obliged to thoroughly analyse all risks associated with the site, including hazards further up the slope such as unstable boulders and slopes, failing retaining walls etc, and recommend the footing design for the house, and remedial action for the external hazards. Once the project has been completed, the site is often much more stable than it was in it’s natural state. The Geotech  Engineer also plays a strategic role during construction, inspecting the site during excavation, and fine tuning his recommendations as required. More sophisticated and flexible excavation machinery has been developed by the construction industry in response to increased demand.

The second major change is increased land values. Steep sites that may have been worth $10 to $15,000 in the early seventies can now be worth millions, well and truly justifying the extra building costs. Most of these steep sites have spectacular views, and those views themselves have been increasingly valued by our society.

The third major change has been scarcity of land.  The Northern Beaches has been recognised as one of the best places on the planet to live, and the amount of land available is geographically limited. Changing demographics and work practices mean that more people do not have to commute to the city, so the distance from the CBD is much less of an inhibiting factor. Predictably, the flat or moderately sloping sites were used up first, so with time, the only available vacant sites are the previously unwanted steep ones.   

The fourth major change has been a revolution in Australian residential architecture. In the last 10 to 20 years, and particularly on the coast, there has been a general trend away from the brick and tile mentality, and cold climate architecture that resulted from our colonisation history.  We are now designing, building and living in houses that suit our semi tropical climate, our informal outdoor lifestyle, and our iconic building materials, such as corrugated iron and weatherboards. This trend towards lightweight construction suits steep sites perfectly as the houses can be designed to be supported on strategically placed posts on concrete piers, rather than on the continuous and expensive footings needed for masonry, resulting in major cost savings.

It is essential when designing houses for these sites to incorporate large balconies, as there is generally no usable level garden area.

The resulting houses can be wonderful places to live, with excellent views, balconies amongst the tree tops, and little or no garden to maintain. The steep topography usually means 3, 4 or even 5 floor levels, so virtually all the rooms can take advantage of the views.

Sustainable Building The Key To The Future

As global warming and water shortages become more a part of all our lives, then increasingly it is becoming beholden on us to act in an environmentally responsible manner. If you are planning on building a new home, then you have the opportunity to play a key role in correcting these major problems. The New South Wales government has recently introduced a water and energy efficiency housing policy called BASIX, and meeting it's compulsory minimum performance standards is a good start. Other options are available such as grey water recycling, solar voltaics and solar water heating etc.

Case study -  new house at Bayview  

In what may be a first in Pittwater, the owners of this house which is currently under construction at Bayview, are aiming to be self sufficient in water and energy consumption.

Under BASIX  (refer to www.basix.com.au), all new houses are required to meet minimum consumption reduction targets compared to the existing housing stock. For both water and energy consumption, that minimum  is 40 %.

Water Efficiency

Typically, a rainwater tank of about 5000 L is required to pass BASIX, with the water being re-used in the laundry, toilets and garden, and it is also necessary to specify low water use fittings and appliances (eg dishwasher) throughout the house.

For this project, a water consultant was engaged to calculate the necessary tank size for self sufficiency, and the results indicated that a 20,000 L tank would result in a 95% probability of never running out of water, and that going to a 30,000 L tank would only increase that to 98%, so the smaller of these 2 options was chosen.

The relatively high rain fall in the Northern Beaches area, combined with large blocks (and hence large roof areas) makes water self efficiency easier to achieve compared to the inland areas of Sydney. The Penrith area for example receives approximately half of the yearly rainfall that occurs at the coast.The water consultant also assisted in the selection of the pump, and all the household fittings and appliances as these items have to be compatible with each other in terms of pressure and flow rates. Additionally, he provided a schematic diagram to assist the plumber with installation.

It was decided that the increased complexity and costs associated with grey and waste water recycling was unwarranted given the easy availability of the existing sewer system, and the abundance of rainwater.

Energy Efficiency

The first step in this process is to make the house to be as energy efficient as possible, using passive solar design principals. North facing windows, particularly in the living areas, appropriate eaves overhangs, thermal mass (in this case concrete floors), cross flow ventilation and insulation to the walls and roof all play their part in this equation. Low “E” glazing was specified to all windows and doors as it approximately twice as efficient as standard clear glass at preventing heat loss in winter.

Thus the amount of energy needed to heat the house in winter is minimised, and, as is typical of all new houses that comply with BASIX, air conditioning is simply a waste of money.

The second step is to select low energy usage appliances as this plays a major role in reducing energy consumption, as does solar assisted gas boosted hot water heating.

All of the above will achieve the compulsory decrease in energy consumption.

Solar Voltaics.

In order to go from a 40% reduction to 100%, solar voltaics are necessary. The biggest issue with solar generated electricity is storing the energy as it only available during the day, where as peak demand is obviously at night. The solution to this is to use the existing grid as a “battery” by feeding power into it during the day (the meter runs backwards during this process), and then drawing on the grid at night, in which case the meter then runs forwards. The desired outcome is come out even overall.

Solar Heating

For this project, the hot water and pool are both solar heated.

Team Members

In response to the ever increasing demand on our services, Rhett Drew has come on board in the role of project management.

Rhett's background is rather impressive. He has an honours degree in Geology, is a former Major in the British army, has been  a director of various companies, a stock market analyst, and a real estate property manager. He has also played 300 1st grade Rugby Union matches including 99 for Eastern Suburbs as captain. As the design and approval process becomes increasingly more complex every year (thanks to Governments at all levels), his contribution to the huge amount of management involved in each project is a welcome relief.

More Pittwater Connections

I was invited by Pittwater Council to design a new duplex for them at a rezoned site opposite Mona Vale Beach, and to be a judge (along with renowned architect Peter Stutchbury) for their 2004 and 2006 Civic Design Awards.

Excellent Design Is An Excellent Investment !

Several of our award winning houses have been sold in the last few years, each time setting record prices for their areas. As the better parts of Australia are increasingly becoming part of a global market, houses designed to high standards of excellence increasingly become more sought after, and are therefore able to command a premium price.

Special thanks

To all the brave clients (past, present and future) who have allowed me to indulge in radical and interesting geometrical experiments with their principle asset. Without you my life would be much less interesting.

Brave Client Wanted For Rotating House.

Do you own a spectacular site and would like a truly original house designed for it? How about a house that can rotate to follow the sun or the sea breeze, or merely your own personal whim.

I spent many years designing large rotating machines in the mining industry so this would be a perfect opportunity to combine that experience with architectural design.

If you are slightly mad, please give me a call on 9973 3312, or through our contact page.

Peter Downes

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