Earthly home comforts

Issue 24 Words: Sasha Shtargot Photography: Ben Wrigley
Warburton, VIC
  • Homeowner Tyrone crafted the kitchen’s polished concrete benchtop himself. The stainless steel rangehoods were sourced from Qasair and the designer pendant light shades from Volker Haug. Salvaged blackwood was used for the bookshelf and lines the kitchen bench.
  • Native plants grow on the earth-covered roof that provides fire resistance, thermal insulation and helps the home blend into the surrounding environment. The living spaces look north out to a pond that continues the home’s connection to the environment.
  • A wood-fired heater sits beneath a stone fireplace. Tyrone and his father hand-cut the stone before crafting the living room’s hearth.

On wet and wintry days in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges, a house has to be decidedly warm. But it’s the quality of warmth in this earth covered home that’s arresting – deep, yet gentle and soothing.

“The humidity doesn’t change, it doesn’t dry you out. It’s the most human heat,” says  homeowner Tyrone Jasper.

The heat rises from the tiled floor thanks to a gas-powered hydronic slab heating system, and on this chilly day wood is also burning in the Cheminees Philippe fireplace. An enormous steel fan on the curved ceiling circulates air through the double height void in the living area.

The heating is just one of the striking things about this house in Warburton, east of Melbourne. From the outside there is the home’s distinctive curved shape, which pays homage to the contours of the surrounding hills. There’s an impressive earth-covered roof and a large pond at the back that continues the strong connection between home and environment.

Tyrone, a builder and craftsman, and his partner Hailey Cavill moved into the house, designed by Alvyn Williams of Soft Loud House Architects, in August 2012, after 18 months of construction. On a 1.4-hectare property overlooking the ranges, the home would provide country respite for Hailey – a social entrepreneur with a busy working life – allowing her to work from a home office with graceful, idyllic views. It would also provide a challenging project for Tyrone as an owner-builder and project manager committed to sustainable design.

Walking into the 7.3 energy star-rated house, an entryway opens into a large central living and kitchen area. North-facing double-glazed windows and doors bring plenty of light and open to a fully glazed sunroom designed for passive heating.

There’s much about the 215 square metre home that is atypical, even novel. Concrete-filled polystyrene blocks were chosen as the home’s main structure – the fully constructed polystyrene was up in a few days, with the concrete poured into the walls on-site. “It was incredibly fast to put up and it’s great insulation,”

The green roof is perhaps the home’s most outstanding feature of this earth covered home. Steel rafters spanning across one large curved central beam act as the spine upon which the plywood roof sits. The wood was sprayed with synthetic neoprene rubber, a resilient water-resistant material.


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Cover of Issue 24
You can read more about Earthly home comforts in Issue 24 of Sanctuary magazine.

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Alvyn Williams, Barry O’Brien & Sean Gallagher, Soft Loud House Architects


Tyrone Jaspers

Landscape design

Phillip Johnson

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