Smith Hansen House: A complex design on a difficult site

This renovation is a response to a challenging site.  The clients, Leon and Janet asked for space, light and views.

The challenges

  • Site – The house is south-facing, positioned on a steep slope which largely consists of rock outcrops and fill. There was little or no level, stable land to build on.
  • Budget – To keep within the client’s budget, the design needed to keep much of the existing house and the new addition needed to be light-weight construction.


Our solution

Although south-facing, we saw an opportunity to design a cantilevered space over the bushland slope below. The newly created rooms and decks to the south-east now capture the winter sun.  For the first time, the owners enjoy views over Sailor’s Bay.

The new pavilion is completely steel-framed. This minimised the need for footings and supported the large cantilevers. The exterior walls are all metal-clad.

To the south of the house, years of effort by the owners to regenerate a weed-infested slope has paid off. The steep site is now covered with giant ferns, Christmas bush and native grasses.

“We love the house for the elegance of its design – the clean lines, open spaces, and maximised views from every room.

The apparent simplicity of the completed project hides the considerable effort that went into the planning and construction on this difficult site. Structural steel is concealed inside walls, windows frame views, and living areas flow onto decks.

David was great to work with – we were consulted at every stage, and were able to discuss details at any time.

Perhaps the final word should go to a friend who has lived in many houses, in various areas of the world: of the main living area, he said “I think it’s just about the nicest room I’ve ever been in….”

Leon and Janet, Owners


Smith Hansen House blog image - view



Photography by Eric Sierins