Skip to main content

Go Ahead Australia, Do Your Worst. Elemental House is Ready

Jack Lovel + Dave Kulesza

Australia is a wild country filled with deadly creatures of every sort and weather that’s just as dangerous. From harsh sun to fierce winds to blazing bushfires, it’s a challenging place to live. But to build your home high up on a ridge, boldly facing the elements head-on seems crazy, and something only a true Australian would attempt. Not only did architect Ben Callery take on this challenge, he created a weekend retreat so stylish we would gladly stare down a wildfire for the chance at a stay.

Located in High Camp, a small town in the Shire of Mitchell, Victoria, Elemental House was built as a small weekend retreat for the owners. Once Callery visited the site himself, he realized that the owners’ original vision would not hold up to the harsh conditions. They needed a structure that was fire-resistant while also withstanding category N3 prevailing winds (roughly 90 mph). Luckily, Callery knew just what to do, designing a home that is just as strong as it is eye-catching.

Related Videos

Using the elements of the build site as inspiration, Callery built Elemental House as a small, one-level vacation home. As harsh as the conditions are, the elevated location allowed for stunning panoramic views of the land and the expansive “woora woora” (local dialect for “sky”). Using this to his advantage, Callery was able to frame stunning views while also positioning the home to capture warming winter sun, block harsh summer heat, and create cooling cross breezes throughout the home.

The shape of the home along with the materials had to be carefully considered when building Elemental House. Walls of glazing which highlight beautiful views of the landscape are rated for high winds. The flat roof overhangs the house, creating a canopy that shades the patios from rain and summer sun. The exterior is clad in spotted gum – an Australian species of hardwood that is naturally fire-resistant and meets the bushfire requirements. The untreated brown wood will age over time to a silvery gray, cleverly shifting the look of the home in the same way the elements are constantly changing. Along with taming the harsh conditions, the retreat is also fully off-grid. There are systems in place to collect rainwater, treat wastewater, and power the home without utilizing local services.

Inside, Elemental House is a dark and moody space that is a reflection of the ever changing weather conditions. The spotted gum wood continues inside on the ceiling and wraps the around the kitchen island. Dark polished concrete was chosen for the flooring, both for its natural element and for its thermal properties, helping the home stay a consistent temperature all year long. In contrast to the bright shining sun, the interior walls and kitchen cabinets are finished in black oriented strand board (OSB). In the sitting area, a black fireplace set against the black OSB creates a strongly masculine focal point. Wood is stored under a built-in concrete shelf turning the natural material into a piece of art. Throughout the home, bright spots were added like the green cushions of a built-in bench in the family room, and a  white soaking tub in the bathroom.

With its exposed, ridgeline position in the heart of bushfire country, the glassy Elemental House faces some of the world’s harshest weather, daring it to do its worst. This little retreat is ready to take on whatever Australia throws at it.

For other homes dealing with Australia’s elements, check out Dunalley House in Tasmania.

Editors' Recommendations

Moore House Blends Disparate Styles Into One Extraordinary Home
moore house hsu mccullough 7

Designing a home is a tricky business. It can be difficult to pick what style you want, and nailing said style is even harder. But blending multiple styles? Forget it! Well, architectural firm Hsu McCullough makes blending styles look easy. Moore House is unlike any other thanks to its eclectic mashup of Mediterranean architecture, contemporary interiors, and elegant Art Deco touches. 

It’s easy to wonder why these disparate styles would be combined in the first place. But taking a look at the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles where Moore House is located shows an area filled with homes built in the 1920s and ‘30s. At that time, Southern California was a melting pot of styles, with Mediterranean Spanish mission mixing itself among Art Deco homes, creating a varied landscape of architecture. Blending these classic looks together, along with contemporary elements, allows Moore House to stand out while still paying homage to the history of its location.

Read more
Chill Out in the Middle of the Desert at This Solar-Powered Geodesic Dome House
Hawkeye House

As a good chunk of the country gets hit with a cold snap, and even some rare autumn snowstorms, heading south for the winter is looking really nice. Luckily there is an amazing escape in the middle of the desert that lets you soak up the sun, hike to your heart’s content, and live that wild off-grid life. Take a look at Hawkeye House, AirBnB’s hottest vacation rental.

Set in the middle of 112 private acres, Yucca Valley’s Hawkeye House offers the best of the desert all in one location. With stunning mountain views, endless trails to hike, and close proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. And thanks to its unique shape, Hawkeye House is a different kind of paradise -- combining style and simple luxury to become a fun and quirky oasis in the sand.

Read more
How to Care for Your Houseplants in the Winter
houseplant monstera

Nothing perks up a home during the dreary months of winter like a lush array of houseplants. From an overflowing string of hearts to a glossy elephant ear to an imposing cactus, your houseplants keep the air clean and fresh, regulate temperature and humidity (or lack thereof), and help combat seasonal effectiveness disorder by giving your serotonin a boost.

That said, the winter months can present serious confusion for even seasoned plant lovers. Do you keep the same watering schedule or change it, and if so, how? What about getting them enough light and warmth when the days get short and cold? Do you have to rearrange your entire plant array, or can they stay in the same places they usually live? And what about this bipolar behavior of bursting into beautiful bloom, only to drop all its leaves the next day?

Read more