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For most of us, a lifetime’s worth of collectables become the non-negotiable goods and chattels carted from home to home. They define our taste, are attached to happy memories and best of all, can be passed down through the generations. But what if you start craving a completely different style to the one you’ve always loved? That was the case for Canberra couple Paul and Silvana, who decided to do away with their antiqued-to-the-hilt home in the leafy suburb of Forrest and build the opposite – an uber-modern glass house with views over Lake Burley Griffin. They stumbled upon the unique Yarralumla property after two years of searching. “I said to Paul, ‘That’s it. That’s where I want to live’,” says Silvana. “But we figured so many people would have knocked at their door already, so we left it.” Then Paul, her builder husband, did a surprisingly romantic thing to secure her dream spot, recalls the homemaker and mum of three. “Two weeks later, he came home and said, ‘Guess what? I asked the real estate agent to knock on their door and they’re thinking about selling.’ I went weak. He must have thought it was where he’d like to be too.”
The couple – who were both born in Italy, but grew up in Australia – were keen for a change. Their impressive antique collection was the first casualty: Paul and Silvana felt it would be all wrong in their new place and, as their three children weren’t keen on taking any of the pricey pieces off their hands, they held a word-of-mouth garage sale instead. “We had antiques we’d paid a lot of money for, but we got nothing for them, really – just 50 or 100 dollars – which was sad,” recalls Silvana. “Once they were gone though, I was happy. I wanted a modern house, so it was time.”
After the property’s old single-storey, weatherboard house had been demolished, the couple, guided by architect Ric Butt from Strine Design, brought their vision of a ‘glass penthouse’ to life. The results are spectacular: grand, open-plan living, with zero doors except on the bedrooms and bathrooms. Tall windows stream light into the seven-metre-high entryway and over the home’s most dramatic feature – a sophisticated glass staircase. Ample spaces on the lower level house the large kitchen, dining area and sunken lounge. Bi-fold doors slide back to bring the outdoors in, opening onto a small pool and lawn, which balances out the home’s more severe modern lines. Upstairs, a small study and three bedrooms are decorated to suit the home’s airy and minimalist look. Paul and Silvana are also well prepared to survive the chill of Canberra’s icy winters with in-slab electric heating downstairs and reverse-cycle airconditioners upstairs.
The couple, who play golf regularly and own canoes and bikes, adore their new, quiet lakeside location. “We have cycling and walking paths right outside our front door and there’s always movement and people sailing and running. We love it,” says Paul with a smile. Silvana agrees. “I don’t ever want to live anywhere else!”
Photo by Craig Wall Aug 17, 2012
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