Living’s a breeze in House of the Year

This article was published in The Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ print edition and online on December 7, 2019.

Stepping inside the stunning Merewether home of husband and wife Basil and Jo Chakos, it’s easy to see why it took out the award for New Residential House of 2019 at this year’s Newcastle Architecture Awards.

Set on a steep block on a quiet cul-de-sac overlooking Merewether Beach, Greenacres spans three levels, with the garage sitting at the base of the property and the residence spanning the two floors above.

The upper level, defined by its bright, white and rectangular living space and balcony, sits elevated from the floor beneath, by three huge white steel ‘paperclip’ shaped feet. Recycled bricks used throughout the remainder of the house bring a rustic contrast to the home’s otherwise modern feel.

The sleek design is the work of Melbourne-based Austin Maynard Architecture.

After calling and meeting the practice’s founder Andrew Maynard, Basil and Jo knew they’d found the right architects for the project.

“We liked the style of work they did. They think outside the square,” says Jo.

The couple purchased Greenacres – which was the name of the property that previously occupied the block – in 2012.

Due to its dilapidated condition and structural issues, they chose to demolish the original house but kept the name as a nod to its history.

Basil and Jo, who are retired and have been together for 46 years, said they wanted their new house to be somewhere they could grow old in. But also one that was open, modern, and easy to maintain.

Cooks Hill Construction oversaw the build of the home, which took close to two years to complete.

The couple made the move from their family home of 30 years in New Lambton Heights, where they lived with their daughter, to Merewether in January 2017.

“It was very private and quiet up there,” says Basil of their leafy former home.

“We had a great view of the forest, Blackbutt Reserve and glimpses of the city. The animal life was spectacular. We loved it.”

The lure of beach views and its close proximity to the city were part of what drew them to Merewether.

Jo notes they would often come to Merewether during the week and weekends to take walks and go to the beach and ocean pools. Often parking near what would become their future home.

“We thought it would be nice to live around here,” she explains.

The couple and their dog, Puppy, have found a beautiful sanctuary in Greenacres.

Airy and light-filled, throughout the house a strong connection between the indoors and outdoors is present.

Ocean and garden views are glimpsed from the many windows throughout the home, while a fishpond on the upper level brings a sense of calm.

The interior is, as Basil describes it, “comfortably minimal”. The couple’s appreciation for Italian design reflected in the tasteful furnishings and curated but functional styling of the space.

Jo’s love of gardening is found both in the well-tended gardens that surround the house and entry path up and in the many potted plants dotted around inside it.

From the balcony, Basil and Jo enjoy spectacular uninterrupted views, from the city stretching right up the coast.

“It changes all the time,” says Basil of the view. “With the wind, in the mornings and afternoons and the whole city lights up at night.”

The house is both remarkably quiet and comfortable. An outcome Basil and Jo attribute to the thoughtful approach and highest consideration for detail adopted during the design and building process.

Basil notes, for example, that all the windows are double-glazed, the walls double insulated, and the four big doors on the balcony were sourced from Germany, as they couldn’t find a product in Australia to handle the wind load.

“So much thought went into the place,” says Basil.

The top level of the home, which features the master bedroom, an en-suite, walk-in robe, study, and kitchen and dining area, is Basil and Jo’s primary living area.

Pointing to the expansive white kitchen cabinetry against the wall of the upper level, Basil tells me there is a lift concealed behind one of its doors, which runs from the third floor down to the garage. Air-conditioning vents are also concealed behind two of the upper cupboard doors, which open when it is in use.

Basil and Jo are very happy for the work of Austin Maynard and Cooks Hill Construction to be recognised through awards and press, but to them, Greenacres is home.

“It’s just so easy and comfortable to live here. We love it,“ says Jo.