Built on the traditional land of the Yuggera and Turrbal people, Brisbane-based firm Nielsen Jenkins design a family home that’s immersed in the surrounding native flora.

Nielsen Jenkins founder and architect Morgan Jenkins was approached by his sister to design a family home in Brisbane’s Mt Coot-ha. Surrounded by a lush gum forest, the subtropical climate has influenced both the home’s structure and materiality. Here, the Nielsen Jenkins team have explored themes of connection and refuge with a robust material palette to establish a sincere sense of place.

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The kitchen features blackbutt timber details and Fisher and Paykel appliances. The Hotary Buoy pendant has a lightness that balances the robust concrete structure.

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A Challenging Site

Brisbane’s Mt Coot-tha is renowned for its mountainous terrain that forms a backdrop to the city. The location of Nielsen Jenkins designer Morgan Jenkins’ childhood home, he was enlisted by his sister to design her family home next door.

The firm faced a demanding brief – bushfire exposure and a vertiginous gradient – informing the single-storey floor plan that’s embedded in the landscape, with various elevations connected via Blackbutt timber stairs.

The central stairwell anchors each zone. Its ascension with the land’s gradient allows for uninterrupted exterior views of the canopy. In addition, a ‘meandering’ informal pathway throughout the home explores the contours of the site.

A central courtyard runs adjacent to the living area, creating a space for daily rituals to be enjoyed from interior to exterior. The outdoor spaces act as bubbles of nature – shielded behind concrete blocks. The robust walls add a layer of protection without obscuring the view.

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The bedroom features exposed Austral Bricks concrete blocks and a custom-made bedhead by Nielsen Jenkins.

The Palette

Concrete, extruded mesh and steel are incorporated intuitively in Mt Coot-tha House, shaping the raw exterior. Inside, the exposed concrete blocks are offset by soft fabrics and leather furniture to invoke comfort and warmth.

The kitchen features a striking green stone benchtop and rich timber joinery, mimicking the native gum trees. “The internal experience is stripped and quiet,” Morgan Jenkins says. “It focuses on the apertures connecting the occupant to the bigger landscape rather than unnecessary decoration.”

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High windows frame the home’s picturesque surroundings afforded by the steep ridge-line.

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A Family Refuge

An extension of the kitchen space, the dining nook features a custom-designed dining table and bench seat by Nielsen Jenkins. This layout caters to the family’s need for convention and play. Morgan Jenkins noted how the different kinds of landscapes across the site allow the children to “test themselves” as they navigate independently and safely.

Mt Coot-tha house melds seamlessly with its environment, asserting an indoor-outdoor connection that will only deepen with time.

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Nielsen Jenkins collaborated with landscape designer Jonathan Kopinski to create lush courtyard zones designed to combat flooding.

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