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How a giant lilly pilly tree inspired the build and design of this home

Building their home around an existing lilly pilly tree helped this family create a warm, welcoming home inspired by nature

Ask most homeowners about the inspiration for their renovation and they’ll often nominate established styles or abstract concepts. Not this couple. Their starting point was a huge lilly pilly tree in the backyard, and some other established trees on their 1115-square-metre property. Once the future of these was assured, the design process began.

Emma and Richard Zanchetta bought their Adelaide property in February 2011. Ideally located between the city and the hills, it included a 1930s Tudor-style home with a 1990s extension, which was liveable but in desperate need of a costly renovation. Richard, a partner at a large building firm, felt that knocking down and starting again was probably the way to go. “We obviously chose the latter,” says Emma.

The pair decided to base the design of their new home around the lilly pilly, and have views of it from inside the house through strategically placed windows. They opted for the simplicity of a Nordic-style, timber-clad home, influenced by their love of Scandinavian cabins and barns.

“Richard knew Norwegian architect Kåre Krokene, of JPE Design Studio, through his business,” says Emma. “We felt comfortable with Kåre’s knowledge and experience and, much to his delight, we ran with his first concept: a clear visual line from the front to the back of the house. This was achieved with an infinity window at the front and a full-height rear window, plus a conceptual boardwalk from the front gate to the pool at the back.” With four children aged under 7 running around, good sight lines were a must.

Construction began in April 2015 and the four-bedroom home was finished 18 months later. Built over three levels (including a basement and mezzanine) in brick veneer, it’s clad in distinctive, fire-treated western red cedar.

“This was a challenge as we couldn’t find anyone experienced in shou sugi ban [a Japanese wood-charring technique for weatherproofing],” says Emma. “But we worked closely with our painter and achieved it through trial and error.”

Inside, the home was fitted out by interior designer Emma, who cites using every inch of space and keeping the set-up flexible as top priorities. Inspired by Nordic and, to a lesser extent, Shaker design, she chose a melange of natural materials, including European oak and lots of other warm timbers plus wool, linen, cotton and hides.

The internal temperature is regulated with hydronic underfloor heating and reverse-cycle air-conditioning. While Emma says she wouldn’t change a thing about her home, she admits that having so much non-standard and bespoke detailing did pose a few challenges. “It was a daily task to ensure the details were clearly understood by all on site,” she says.

Once the house was complete, the family took a break before renovating the pool, which was swim-ready by Christmas 2017. They planned the back garden and selected the plants themselves, with the lilly pilly tree – which shades the back deck and pool boardwalk – naturally taking a starring role.

Words by: Deborah Grant. Styling by: Deni Jones. Photography by: Jacqui Way.

This article was first published in Your Home and Garden. Follow YHG on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the fortnightly email for inspiration between the issues.

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