renato d'ettore Coogee house exterior facade

This project is a light, bright coastal home that highlights the terracotta brick.

While on an Italian holiday, architect Renato D’Ettorre was struck by the clever use of perforated clay bricks in an Italian hay barn – they let air pass through yet were simultaneously able to keep the hay dry. These bricks became the inspiration for this simple yet robust Coogee home.

coogee house renato d'ettore backyard

The brief was for a house that could withstand the corrosive coastal atmosphere while still paying respect to the beauty of the site. The clients were happy for the architects to develop a design concept organically, with the only non-negotiables being a place for their three children to socialise, a music room and a small gym.

“In designing this house, we looked at the need to include diversity of conditions and objectives. Playfulness and fun formed part of those objectives,” says D’Ettorre.

“One of the biggest challenges was creating a home that struck the right balance between befitting such a magical setting while still remaining sensitive to its surroundings and creating a sense of mystery, both of which we achieved through the layered materiality.”

coogee house renato d'ettore interior shadows

The design of the home also incorporates a sharp contrast to its natural surroundings and deliberately creates deep shadows, giving the house a carved solid aesthetic.

“The house needed to respect the client’s likes and desires: simplicity and honesty of material without excess, simple forms with an evocative presence for such a popular and prominent location, with the underlying requirement for practicality and minimal upkeep,” says D’Ettorre.

To make the most of its picturesque location, the house also has a large span. This meant it required an external material that would be strong enough yet beautiful enough to provide a dynamic play of light to the interior, tempering views and weather and letting the house breathe without requiring unsustainable levels of maintenance. The solution to this was perforated brick.

D’Ettorre worked with PGH Bricks & Pavers to develop a bespoke breeze brick; perforated to allow light, fresh air and ocean views to filter through the house. The bricks would also be glazed on one side only – the side that forms the facade of the house.

coogee house renato d'ettore brick

“Externally, the white-glazed bricks needed to blend with white-painted brick walls to create the illusion of solidity, depth and thickness,” says D’Ettorre.

“Internally, the unglazed terracotta-coloured clay responds to the refined grey concrete walls and the textured white painted brick walls. The three materials together created a colour harmony that imbued a sense of calmness and warmth, especially during the evenings when the clay breeze bricks are illuminated and glow like a warm fireplace.

“All external materials were chosen for their inherent natural hues and qualities, requiring minimum long-term maintenance. With the passage of time, the materials will age gracefully, developing authentic patinas like natural materials do when they are left to weather by the elements.”