Nestled on a bush-covered site in Sydney’s north, Castlecrag Courtyard by Downie North emulates the natural beauty of its surroundings.

Sydney-based architects Downie North have crafted a “forever home” for a family of five in the Middle Harbour suburb of Castlecrag. Situated amid a lush, biodiverse garden and offering sweeping views that extend all the way to the city and ocean, the home is a celebration of Sydney’s unique bush-meets-coast landscape.

The brief was to design a robust and functional family home featuring dedicated spaces for the children to study, shared spaces for enjoying meals together, and spaces to accommodate extended family. Above all, the landscape needed ample opportunities to enter and envelop the building, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two realms.

Conceptually, the house was designed to be “part cave, part treehouse”, evoking protection and freedom. Areas intended for privacy and refuge, such as the bedrooms and bathrooms, exude intimacy and a cocooning atmosphere. “There is a sense of the building wrapping around and embracing the occupant in these spaces,” Downie North co-director Catherine Downie says. Conversely, spaces designed for connection and entertaining, like the kitchen, dining and living areas, are more expansive and open to the outside. Catherine notes, “The building almost dissolves into the landscape in these areas,” creating a seamless integration with the surroundings.

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Artisan Neva Bar Stool

The kitchen also features a Miele fully integrated dishwasher, induction cooktop and pyrolytic and combi oven, a Sub-Zero integrated fridge, and the Artisan Neva bar chair.

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The Thonet GMBH 2002 / C002 and Flos Bellhop floor lamp in green.

The design emphasises fostering a strong connection to the landscape, drawing on Castlecrag’s distinctive sprawling native gardens. “The area was initially envisioned as a ‘bushland utopia,’ with subdivisions and roads carefully following the natural contours of the land,” co-director Daniel North says. “This layout creates walkways that meander through tall eucalypts and rocky scarps, connecting a series of reserves designed to encourage moments of pause and appreciation for the landscape. This preoccupation with the landscape not only influenced the spirit and programming of the house but also dictated the material choices,” he elaborates.

Collaborating with Emily Simpson Landscape Architecture on the garden, the architects took a meticulous approach to the plant selection, choosing species that were indigenous and ideally suited to the local environment. This careful curation aimed to not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the site, but also contribute to the restoration of local biodiversity and support wildlife in the area.

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EMU Riviera Dining Chair

Resting elevated on a sloping site, the “part cave, part treehouse” home boasts magnificent views that extend all the way to the city and ocean. The courtyard features the Emu Riviera Easy chair.

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Ligne Roset Linden Occasional Table

Flos Tab LED F

All the spaces, including both private and public, embrace the surrounding garden. Pictured is the Mattiazzi Clerici lounge chair in red, Artek Karuselli lounge chair, Ligne Roset Linden occasional table and Flos Tab floor lamp.

Downie North took cues from the landscape to shape both the exterior and interior material palettes. “You’ll notice the oranges and greys of the angophora’s bark, the deep greens of the harbour waters, and the reds and golds of the sandstone cliffs,” Daniel says. The architecture predominantly features burnished concrete flooring, crazy sandstone paving, off-form concrete walls and timber batten screens. Complementing these elements, the carefully chosen furniture selections inject life and bursts of colour into the interiors.

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Areas intended for privacy and refuge, such as the bedrooms, exude intimacy and a cocooning atmosphere. This space features the Louis Poulsen NJP wall light.

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The study features the Adela Rex chair.

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Downie North collaborated with Emily Simpson Landscape Architecture on the garden, choosing plant species that were indigenous and suited to the local environment. Approaching the front entrance, one gets an immediate sense of the importance of the garden in the building’s design.

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