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Secret doors, bright colour accents and sustainable design—could this be one of our favourite Home Stories of 2021?
From the moment photographer Cass and I arrived at the Ainslie home of Sue Webeck and Sam Tyler, we could tell it was a new home designed by Canberra sustainable architecture firm Light House Architecture and Science.
The trademark vertical wooden panel garage door gave it away immediately and reminded us of the visit we paid to the home of Light House Founder Jenny Edwards over a year ago. I was really keen to see how Sue and Sam added their own personalities to a home that already has such a presence.
The first flash of personalisation was the bright yellow entrance door. It shone like a warm sun and when it opened, three exceptionally affectionate dogs burst out to say hello.
I always feel rude saying hello to the dogs before the owners but what am I really supposed to do when they get to me first?
I could hear Sue and Sam calling their names and the children laughing but that didn’t work so I proceeded to walk them inside the house like some sort of Lord of Cute Dogs.
Sue and Sam had lived on the Ainslie block for a few years and were hoping to renovate and extend the existing mid-1960s home but, in the end, the only sensible option was to knock down and rebuild a home with a high energy efficiency. The build was completed around 16 months ago and, luckily, the family love every aspect of it.
An interesting thing about the layout of these sustainable homes is that the architects orient the house and rooms to best suit the sun, as opposed to the classic street-facing orientation. In this instance, that means the laundry and the master bathroom are at the front of the house and lead to the external breeze-through car space and mezzanine storage.
Sue says they were hesitant about this at first, but quickly realised the benefits of this functional layout flip. In fact, they love that the master bedroom is now on the side of the house with cooler and darker features, which are perfect for calmly unwinding for sleep.
Speaking of features Sue and Sam love, you’ll see that the ceilings are angled throughout the home, which reminds them all of a doll’s house. To me, this playful feature really brings grandeur and character to the home’s heat-efficient spaces.
The idea of not having moderate-sized rooms was intentional on Sam and Sue’s part. They specifically wanted their twin girls, Miya and Elliott, to use their bedrooms as a space to play, rest and relax but not study.
“There is so much for young minds to deal with these days, so it’s really important that they have a space to get away from it all and connect together on a real human level all in their bedrooms,” explains Sue. “It also promotes the twins spending time with us in the family shared spaces.”
You can see how much Sue and Sam believe in the value of human contact by the fun secret door between the twins’ bedrooms. Who needs to text when you can just pop your head through that door for play, a conversation or just that feeling of contentment? As the CEO of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) ACT, Sue knows that access to those who care for you and love you is at the top of the chain.
The shared spaces of the home are divided between a reading and relaxation room, a kitchen and dining and then the living room. There are plenty of window nooks, couches and other inviting spaces to relax, read, study or work. There is also a sewing room which Sam uses as a home office, but I had to argue that a better description would have been a sewing factory.
There was so many fabrics and instruments that Sam uses to create all sort of wonderful pieces including quilts for all occasions and moods. I’m sure you’ll spot dozens of items around the house that have been created by her as well as an impressive collection of works by local artists.
Sam’s collection of objects and interest in crafts a reflection of her long past life as the Executive Branch Manager of Arts ACT. Clearly, her love for textiles, colour, patterns and craft is not going anywhere fast. Once a sewer, always a sewer.
While we are on the topic of colour, aside from Sam’s crafty work, you’ll see there are pops of it through the house that really bring energy to the spaces. I really liked the colours little ones Miya and Elliott chose for the bedroom feature walls, while Cass was mesmerised by the pink kitchen feature panel.
So much so that she reinvigorated a healthy debate as to whether the front door should also be painted that colour. There were many points put forward and everyone talking over the top of each other until Sue took charge and put an end to the conversation with this tongue in cheek statement: “As the financial backers, we might get the tie-breaking vote”.
It was hard to argue with such a decisive statement, however, I actually think they should leave it yellow, and here’s why.
Not only does the yellow door reflect the sunny and energy-efficient aspects of Sam and Sue’s home, but also a glimpse of the playful personalities that family have filled the home with, in abundance. Most importantly though, it represents the incredibly warm nature of the people living inside.
Planning a move in 2021?
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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