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This week’s Home Stories will have you saying, ‘Canberra or Palm Springs?’ as we explore the architecturally stunning Cetrtek family home in Griffith.
I’m sure you’re across the saying ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Now, I’m not normally one for trivia, but apparently, that saying was pioneered by a Roman naval commander known to historians as Pliny the Elder. Was Pliny homesick while sailing the seas when he coined the term? Probably.
However, when I hear that saying, I don’t think of home in the ‘spiritual’ sense. Instead, I think of the connection we have with our physical homes. Namely, that our homes are the places we feel the deepest affection—and after spending time with Lisa and Steven Cetrtek in their Griffith home, I’m pretty sure my interpretation is spot on.
The first time I visited a Cetrtek family home was actually many years ago, when the couple were selling their Narrabundah duplex. I was looking for a home at the time and despite attending (what seemed like) hundreds of inspections and auctions, their property really stood out.
There was just something different about the flow of the simple-yet-grand spaces, the symmetric layout of the furniture and the inclusion of modern artistic elements as well as workshop that looked as if someone was interrupted mid-project.
I don’t remember many of the homes I inspected then, but I remember that duplex well. I learned after the auction that one of the owners was an architect with his own firm—Thursday Architecture—and his partner looked after the interiors. Even though I didn’t meet the couple in person then, I felt like I got an insight into their lives through their home.
However, I did finally get to meet Lisa and Steven in person at the couple’s next home during a HerCanberra magazine launch—a sympathetically renovated 1950s Kenneth Oliphant original on Captain Cook Crescent in Griffith named Salo House.
I recall chewing Lisa’s ear off about how lovely the home was with a perfect blend of vintage Canberra heritage and modern living. The flow of the simple-yet-grand spaces was there again as well as the lovely symmetry in the interior layouts. However, what really stuck with me was the use of colour to create a powerful mood.
The living space was surrounded in a deep green that made you feel cosy and relaxed. This was contrasted with a bright dining and kitchen space that filled you with energy. The most memorable thing about that home to me was that, despite being meticulously styled, it felt personal. Lisa and Steven were, again, letting you see who they are through their home.
Fast forward to now and Lisa, Steven and I meet again, this time to celebrate their brand-new Thursday Architecture-designed Griffith home, built in collaboration with D3 Projects. The couple moved in just seven months ago—but the journey started with the purchase of a dilapidated monocrete cottage just six homes away from their Oliphant renovation.
Naturally, Steven began sketching concepts immediately. He finally settled on a design based on the adage of ‘form follows function’ after a momentary thought raised the idea ‘What if we had a curved shower wall in the ensuite?’.
That question was the start of a ripple effect of ideas that has influenced the home’s front façade, internal feature walls, kitchen benchtop and styling elements like wall lamps and handles. Even the backyard has a flowing pool fence and organically curved steppingstones.
If these elements remind you of the iconic mid-century architecture of Palm Springs, California then you’d be right. Lisa and Steven are long-term admirers. As Steven puts it, “The dry, hot climate of Canberra in summer is surprisingly similar”.
Having been there a couple of times, I tend to agree—we just have less cacti and movie stars. What we have no shortage of in Canberra, however, is people with a sense of style—and Lisa and Steven are the perfect example.
Just look at the way Steven’s design has highlighted a mid-century aesthetic through the striking use of stacked feature brickwork, textures and a restrained colour palette.
That curved ensuite shower is the show stopper of the front façade, expressed in raw concrete and giving the home a monumental appearance, almost as a tribute to some of Canberra’s own iconic brutalist architecture.
Internally, the restrained palette continues with soft grey marble, concrete wall panels, polished concrete floors and plenty of reeded glass. And just like in Salo House, the couple have painted the living space in green too. When you’re onto a good thing, stick with it.
Speaking of sticking with good things, it may seem that a home as unique as this one would be all brand new. However, the couple are big believers in reusing where possible, so the outdoor breeze blocks were saved from a demolition site and are now a major design feature. The timber roof beams from the original home were also salvaged, milled and used to create the chevron-patterned floor in the entrance, hallway and lounge.
Just like their previous addresses, the experience of being in Lisa and Steven’s home was really personal. You could feel how much attention, passion and thought has gone into creating each space—it clearly has a special place in their hearts. And as they say—home is where the heart is.
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Editor’s note: This editorial was photographed prior to the ACT 2021 lockdown and current health directives.
Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with ActewAGL.
Read all of Ashley’s Home Stories series here.
Photography: Cass Atkinson