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Design SSD Studio

Island bench Elba White

Stonemason All Stone & Glass

Photographer Shannon Dand

Elemental House – Grand Designs featured home

Elemental House truly embodies the ‘elements’ in its breathtaking beauty. Dreamed up by owners Michael and Belynda Henry and designed by Sophie Solomon, Principal Architect at SSD Studio.

The house rests at one with its natural surrounds, and was the perfect project to capture on television series, Grand Designs Australia. “The show really concentrates on the personal journey and all life’s hurdles that can disrupt the build. It shows the reality of taking on something so grand. But at the end of the day it’s the house that is the hero for the show”, shares Michael.

Talostone® first met Belynda and Michael during the design phase of their selection process. It was important for them to find something that was restfully integrated into the rest of the selections. Michael said,” When I was designing the interiors it was critical that there was a balance, all the elements must complement each other. I didn’t want any one particular thing to stand out.” Elba White is, as Michael surmised, the ‘obvious choice’ when looking for something that has mutual undertones and subtle sophistication.

Belynda Henry is an Archibald finalist, and is well recognised for her heavenly paintings of landscapes which capture the essence of nature. Inspired by the Australian bushland she has experienced including other natural scenes from her travels around the world. Given her background, wanting to really highlight the vistas in which the house had to offer was clearly a priority for Belynda and Michael.

It was important that it still felt like a home without feeling like an Art Gallery. The subtle changes of scale and material helped to achieve this

Design Phase

Sophie met Belynda as she was lucky enough to purchase one of Belynda’s watercolour paintings. From here, she was introduced to Michael and together they established that Sophie’s passion for well considered design was just what they needed to turn their dream home into a reality.

Given Michaels background in Project Management and Belynda’s creative nature as a professional artist, their requirements in looking for a partner to design their home would no doubt have been very specific.

“I am passionate about turning my clients’ dreams into a reality. How a home can reflect the owner’s personality while creating comfort and respite. I am passionate about nature and the importance of sustainable design to capture the sun’s energy and the cooling breezes, to create comfort, enhance wellbeing and reduce the impact on the earth.”

Planning phase

The journey for Michael and Belynda was heavily laden with planning, as can be expected for most projects of this calibre.

“This was never going to be an easy build”, said Michael. “With a very complicated design there were many engineering hurdles to overcome, most no one will ever see. As a project manager some of the common problems with building a home were easier for me because of my experience. But this was a very dynamic build. Many moving parts and complex construction methods. The underground wine cellar and the glass dining room spring to mind. They look simple enough but in reality, are quite complex.”

Sophie’s skills and professional approach was imperative to taking direction from Michael and Belynda, and bringing it into fruition. “Clients comment that they are drawn to the way I capture light and space in a home. They like the simple palette of natural materials and my approach which is creative yet pragmatic”, Sophie tells us. “The design concept of Elemental house represents the landscape abstraction of Belynda’s paintings and Michael’s love of contemporary design and building using robust and natural materials.”

With a clear vision and a capable team at hand, it was important to identify and clearly resolve the top priorities for the design of this home:

• The natural transition between the house building and the landscape
• Capturing the natural vistas from the inside of the home
• Showcasing Belynda’s beautiful artwork with an alternate perspective between rooms.

“It was important that it still felt like a home without feeling like an Art Gallery. The subtle changes of scale and material helped to achieve this”, Sophie said.

All the colours were picked to work with the surrounding environment. Again my original brief of bringing the outside in

Design notes

Amongst the floor plan of this five bedroom home, there were several critical grand design moments which this home will be remembered for. The window into the cellar visible from the pool, albeit a practical decision to bring light into the cellar, really creates a stand out feature. The breathtaking dining room was a collaborative concept born from a conceptual sketch from the owner and evolved to become a breathtaking component in the design. Sophie tells us, “The lower scale of the dining room and entry wall create an element of surprise and joy. The detailing of the glass walls and steel framing is contemporary in contrast to the rough and raw concrete seat wrapping the edge of the glazing.”
The bespoke fire pit is interesting, beautiful and complex. It is a statement piece situated as the heart of the home. “This is something that I have always wanted. The original design criteria was to bring the inside out and the outside in. So this seemed to fit that brief perfectly”, Michael told us. “I also needed a dramatic element to separate the kitchen from the lounge room without it being formal. Dividing the space without separating the rooms added a sense of community, something to sit around and share wine and stories. And I can still see that beautiful kitchen from the lounge room.”

Material Selections

Elemental House has Belynda’s touch of colour all over. Her stunning artwork is featured throughout the house creating such warmth and interest, which no doubt set the tone for hard material selections.

Michael also had a clear vision of what they were looking for. “I really wanted to keep an earthy feel for the design. All the colours were picked to work with the surrounding environment. Again my original brief of bringing the outside in”, he said.

SSD Studio obviously had input into materials which came to form the structure. “Large windows draw your eye to the surrounding rolling green paddocks to the South and wooded hills to the North. Rooms are defined by concrete walls, singular and natural in form, further drawing the view out. Timber and steel bring contrast and detail. Dark Grey Joinery, Artwork and furnishings bring colour, warmth and pattern.”


Taking the lead on material selections, Sophie directed owners Michael and Belynda to visit the Talostone City Experience Center to select their mineral surfaces for the kitchen bench.  

“After talking to the wonderful Talostone design team, it became very clear what the obvious choice should be. The incredible Elba White worked so well with the Monument Matt coloured joinery”, Michael said. “It really is such a stand out feature of our home.”

“When you look at it framed by the beautiful surrounding landscape it just works so well. Everyone comments on my benchtops. Actually after the tops were installed I loved it so much that I changed all my splash backs from glass to Elba White and even used it in my laundry. It’s such a beautiful product.” 

“The beautiful thing about this stone is that it worked so well with all the other design elements and colours in the house. It made picking the tiles, kitchen, paint and overall interior design really easy. The Elba White just fit in so well with everything else in the home. It’s a bold, beautiful stone without screaming, ’look at me’. I just love it.” 

We were so pleased to see Michael and Belynda find a stone that really encapsulated their objective of seamlessly integrating the indoors and outdoors into their kitchen. If you haven’t seen the Talostone White Elba in person, get in touch and we can arrange a sample to be sent to you.

Feeling inspired by the stunning design elements featured in Elemental House?
If you’d like to experience the beauty on Elba White stone firsthand,
click the link below to request a sample.