An artistic duo have combined with a skilled architect to create a home in Yellingbo that soothes an artistic spirit and inspires on a daily basis. 

Art teacher Laurie Smith and Graphic artist and educator Renee Hoareau planned their new home for three years and spent five years searching for the ultimate block to build their dream.
The idea was to incorporate every ideal of a low maintenance home that fulfilled their needs for individual art spaces for work and play. “Our idea was that the home would be all on one level and maintenance free,” said Laurie.

Combined with the skills of architect Michael Ellis who the couple now see as a firm friend, the result is a stylish and elegant home, which makes the most of its aspect and inspiring its inhabitants on a daily basis.

Architect Michael Ellis describes the home and property as an oasis, not just for the owners but for all who visit.
“From the outset, the house was a creative endeavour. These conditions were unique to this office and were accentuated by the absence of any formal planning regulations at a state or local level. It is a freedom appreciated and directly responsible for the dynamic result we achieved,” said Michael.

Although the efficiency of the house is high, its position is contrary to most notions of sustainable design.
“The orientation of the house is deliberately tailored to take advantage of the Wandin Valley. It does not specifically address the northern orientation – both to protect the artworks within from harsh sun, and to affirm the building’s precedence based on art institutions.”


The pragmatic plan has sleeping areas to the south and the layout provides two separate creative work spaces to one end of the floor plan. Separating the bedrooms from the creative spaces and garage is the kitchen, meals and living room that integrates along the glazed building perimeter to form an edge against the pool before the view. “The stone wall serves to bind the plan, forming a tension that holds the spaces together; it is a paradox not lost within a reading of surrealism,” said Michael.

The design of the house is based around the need for two separate artistic spaces. “The floor plan creates opportunities for the integration of the work of others, or to showcase their skills. Internal galleries lead to vistas – one houses a giant stainless steel ball, and the other leads to the artists’ studios. The oversized ball reflects the residence – a mutually beneficial relationship, and part analogy of art referencing itself.”

The dramatic stone façade and the home’s signature element was created by Stonemason Peter Straker. The stone provides a contrast to the minimalist interior and combines with the yellow box timber flooring to add warmth to the interior. “The facade now seems like it could not have been anything other. Early in my career I heard an architectural proverb that has stuck with me since. ‘Architecture is the first art in which all other art is housed.’ At Yellingbo, I believe this is what we have achieved.”

For Laurie the specially designed studio has enabled him to extend his artistic work. Although he did say, “Like any artist though you could always do with twice the size.” Laurie has managed to fill the space with his works in progress and interesting collections including several quirky vintage fans. His easel is placed alongside one of the huge glass windows and the space is flooded with natural light.

Even on over cast days the whole of the home’s interior is luminous and you are always aware of the lovely view into the bushland and the panorama of the sky.


The couple were hands on with the overall design and the interior. Laurie designed the lighting over the living space and the dramatic butterfly piece over the dining table which he also built. He made some of the furniture from refurbished discarded office furniture and an old school locker forms the basis of one of Laurie’s artworks in the main hall gallery.

Always with an artistic eye the interior furnishings were also carefully planned. Renee points out that your eye can follow the story of the colour green in each room, such as the brightly coloured chair in the hall, to the pop of green in the living room. It all combines with the charcoal of the dining table base and the grey of the kitchen bench.

The scene stealer in the kitchen is the dramatic granite bench tops. “You can dance or cut anything on it, it is marvellous,” said Renee. Once again the pebble graphic of the granite theme is carried through into other rooms. The kitchen’s mirror splashback reflects the room and the outdoors and becomes a landscape painting rather than a static feature.

For Renee and Laurie the home is the restful, easy to live in retreat they had hoped for. It is a long drive from Brunswick where Renee works, “but it is worth coming home to,” she said.
Michael Ellis Architects 

WORDS Rebecca Faltyn