Thursday, March 21, 2024

Behind the front door of Villa Gris

Villa Gris is a distinctly West Australian holiday home-come-micro hotel that sets the perfect tone for a lavish South West escape.


Private Properties chats to the home’s owner, Liz, about Villa Gris’ unique design, its sustainable features and why she and husband Tim chose this beautiful part of the world to design and build their very first owner-architect home.


Inspired by the idyllic West Australian landscape surrounding it, Villa Gris intentionally exudes a hotel vibe, minus the crowd.


“When you visit different holiday destinations, the luxury of a hotel is really nice, but the flexibility of having self-catering and having privacy in a space to yourself is also appealing,” Villa Gris’ owner Liz says. “We thought it was actually a quite nice idea to combine the two: a micro hotel-meets-country house stay.”


Insert Villa Gris – a passion project for Liz and husband Tim, both architects based in the UK.


“The idea of building a home from scratch on a virgin piece of land was very appealing to us,” Liz says. “In the UK, you don’t tend to have the privilege of doing a new build from scratch.”


“We were looking around for a place to do a build of our own, and my connections with Western Australia (Liz was born in Perth and moved to the UK when she was 14) was obviously one of the reasons we focused on the South West,” she says. “We have two daughters who are pretty much grown up now, but when the kernel of this idea started, which was probably about 10 years ago, I thought it would be nice to have a base in WA, somewhere to take them back.


Tim Evans and Liz Lane with their daughters


“I have fond memories of holidays in the South West when I was a young, and even though there are now some beautiful, high-end properties and world-class restaurants and wineries, it’s still got a very grassroots feel about it.”


It’s a stark contrast to the lifestyle that Liz, Tim and the girls live in the UK.


“We wanted to have some space around us because where we live in London, everyone’s quite close together,” she says. “We also liked the Australian bush because it is so unique compared to English forest or woodland. It’s quite a different sort of feel.”


When it came to picking the final site for their first owner-architect project, Liz and Tim settled for a 5-acre block that manages to capture the best elements of WA’s natural environment.


“Villa Gris is nestled in amongst the bush, but you’ve got views through to the sea,” Liz says. “Having a mixture of the two landscapes really appealed to us.”

And a home that would not only complement these surroundings, but show them off, formed the brief for Villa Gris’ design. The result: A unique building that focuses on bringing the outside in.


Rectangular-shaped, Villa Gris’ bottom floor features floor-to-ceiling glass doors that can be opened and then hidden between recesses in the walls.


“The idea was to make the centre of the house the al fresco area,” Liz explains. “If you draw back both doors completely, you actually bring the outside in and it just flows from one to the other.


“Technically, it was quite an interesting thing to do; once the doors are hidden you just have this bridge-like structure left, with the bedrooms bridging over the top.”



Hanging bubble chairs by the fireplace provide a space where guests can feel connected to the outside, while still “hanging” inside, and guests who take a soak in the outdoor lap pool can still “soak” in views of the ocean by looking straight through the house.


Upstairs, four bedrooms, each with their own ensuites, provide quiet and private spaces to retreat to. Each room boasts native bushland views, as well as their own identities, showcased in funky, eye-catching wallpaper.


“Because it’s a very logical, rigid arrangement, we wanted to give each room its own character and personality,” Liz says. “We stuck with the monochrome palette, so it’s not to take away from the natural, raw finishes of the home’s materials.”



Liz says the home’s colour and material palette was influenced by the Australian bush, which is “not quite monotone, but it’s a very grey type of environment.”


The environment played a huge part in how Villa Gris was constructed, with Liz and Tim considering a number of sustainable methods for the build.


“As architects, sustainability is always on the agenda,” Liz says. “In terms of water supply, the house is already off-grid, but we wanted to push the envelope a little bit further.”


“We got an air source heat pump for the heating of the hot water, solar panels on the roof to generate some of the home’s electricity, and highly insulated, doubled-glazed concrete walls,” she says. “In fact, our build was one of the first times that that method, which originated in New Zealand, had been used in WA.


“All of the elements of the build itself were designed to be a passive design in terms of energy efficiency.”


The home’s layout also projects sustainable thinking, with rooms made for multiple uses and for multiple generations.


“There are lots of different spaces and places for different generations to hang out,” Liz says. “You’ll find the young kids out the back on the grass by the pool, and the oldies might be inside.



“It’s built for entertaining.”


And if guests want to venture out, Villa Gris is just a hop, jump and skip away from some of the Margaret River Region’s best things to see and do. When Liz and Tim are in town, they’ll be at the beach or at a local winery.


“Smiths Beach is Tim’s favourite beach because it’s so huge and has good surf,” Liz says. “My favourite beach would probably be Eagle Bay or Castle Rock.


“The South West is also lovely in the Winter for walks. You could take a walk and end up in a winery, or spend all day walking along the beach.”


When Liz and Tim aren’t staying at Villa Gris, they open its doors to other families wanting to get away.


“We knew we weren’t going to be there all the time and we wanted it to be used while we weren’t there – we didn’t want to just close it up and leave it,” Liz says. “Private Properties have a fantastic portfolio of really high-end properties.


“They have pretty much cornered the market down south, and we felt they were the best fit for understanding our needs, our aspirations, and what we love about the house and our desire to share that with other people.


“They were just the best people to facilitate that.”


This blog post is part of our Behind the Front Door series, which give you an insight into the design and build of some of our favourite Private Properties holiday homes. Meet the owners of these stunning properties, and find out why they fell in love with their little slices of paradise and the breathtaking destinations they’re located in.

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