Way Way House
Luigi Rosselli Architects
2000 – 2002
2003 – 2004
Project Managed by Owner
Way Way, on the NSW Mid-North Coast
5 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 5+ Car (3 cars garaged)
Twin pavilion house joined by a covered breezeway, set high on a natural amphitheatre – plus separate studio
© Natalie McComas
Way Way House is set on 3.35 hectares, with expansive northerly views overlooking Gumbaynggir country, to the ocean at Scotts Head and up the coast to Nambucca Heads. Inland, Picketts Hill adjacent to Valla Beach is a local landmark and north to the Nunn Gaali Mountain (Old Man Sleeping Mountain) comes into view, which is the mountain range that runs behind the Never Never region of Bellingen. To the north-west lie the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and the Bellinger Valley.
Designed by award-winning architect, Luigi Rosselli, Way Way is a four-bedroom house with separate studio.
It has been a holiday house, permanent residence, writing and creative retreat. The house works well in all seasons, with doors and windows flung open in summer as well as warm and cosy during winter.
Incorporating many characteristic features of Rosselli’s designs, the long, low house cleverly manages to expand and contract, depending on the number of occupants and their needs at the time. It’s a house that’s the perfect place to entertain and be sociable as well as providing space for solitude and relaxation.
“The gentle curves of Rosselli's designs are well-known. His designs are some of the most shared and admired on social media. Yet there is one design that was unknown, teased only by a single, tantalising sketch. ”
“Rosselli's beautiful sketch captures the elegant simplicity of the house but nothing can prepare one for the view.”
The story of the Way Way House starts around 20 years ago with three friends who surfed and had dreams of building a holiday house together. They spent two years searching along the New South Wales coast before finally discovering this ideal valley.
On a ridge and reaching down into a natural amphitheatre of subtropical bushland and paddocks, the views are extraordinary – on a clear day, and at the right time of the year, it’s possible to see the whale migration along the coastline.
The brief to the architect was simple – a holiday house for two families. It was to be a place in which they could spend time together but, equally, have their own areas. The spaces work perfectly, as per the brief – the communal areas, the breezeway and the separate bedrooms. There are also areas to retreat, such as the mezzanine, studio and for the majority of the year, the pool.
Rosselli, who set up his practice in 1984, has designed a number of holiday houses throughout his career, he says, and “it’s not so unusual to have a shared house for the holidays. I had a good understanding that you need private space for everyone, and a communal space that’s generous. It’s important that no one’s on top of each other and everyone needs to be treated quite equally.”
He spent time on the site, with compass, pacing it out, to find the best place to build, and the ideal orientation. Once that was established, his solution was to divide the main house into two pavilions – the quiet bedroom wing and the more sociable living space – separated by a breezeway. From the driveway side, the pavilions are anchored into the land in true Rosselli style. From the ocean side, the elongated house seems to hover above the hillside. Its floating roof is signature Rosselli.
The oversized breezeway is key to the design in a number of ways. For Rosselli, it provides a perfect entrance to the house. The driveway, through the bush, gives you few clues to where you are or where you are going. Once you step out of your car, you see the studio – a simple structure with workspace and mezzanine bedroom – across a triangular lawn shaded by two magnificent poincianas. Walk along a short pathway, past a frangipani, across a little bridge and onto the breezeway. With its framed view of the bush and ocean, “you’ve arrived”.
Luigi Rosselli sketch of main entry and covered breezeway
The owners love it for its ability to be both social and solitary – a genuine indoor-outdoor space, somewhere to have a barbecue or to lounge around and read; somewhere to catch the nor’easter or to sleep out at night and feel as if you’re camping.
Step one way from the breezeway and you’re into the main double-height living space, It’s here that Rosselli’s “quirks and curves” are most evident – the unexpected angles within the room, the stepped storage under the staircase leading up to the mezzanine, the rounded corner of one wall. Floor-to-ceiling windows along one whole wall face northeast, across the saltwater swimming pool towards the ocean, and open to a narrow deck.
Broad eaves protect the room from the harshest summer sun, and yet allow sun in during the winter. Heating is only needed on the coldest of evenings.
“The 'big sky' view and the sheer distance one can see, heightens the experience of the house at every turn – the view is a constantly changing picture.”
Interior Living Spaces
A chef designed the kitchen, with its concrete benchtops. It’s not just the fact that it has top quality equipment; it’s more that it’s been designed to be efficient and has an abundance of storage. “It’s not excessively large,” says Rosselli. “It’s much harder to work in an oversized kitchen than a well-proportioned one.”
The large island bench provides plenty of workspace as well as a spot to gather. The mezzanine level, directly above, delineates the kitchen area, making it feel slightly separate from, but still within, the living area. “I didn’t want the kitchen to be isolated,” says Rosselli, who nominates it as one of his favourite features of the house.
In true country style, access to the house is also via a large deck by the kitchen door – a less dramatic entrance, but somehow more practical and informal. It’s another example of the way the mood can subtly shift within the house.
The mezzanine level, part of the living area and yet feeling separate from it, looks out in one direction towards the ocean and in another, straight into the treetops. As with much of the rest of the house, it’s a flexible space – sometimes an intimate sitting room, at other times a kids’ bunkroom or playroom.
The stair to the mezzanine is an architectural detail in its own right – beautifully crafted, it doubles as storage space also.
The bedroom pavilion is simple in form. Two sets of two bedrooms, with bathrooms between, line up off a long corridor and all take advantage of the views. “When the fog rolls in, you feel as if you’re sleeping in the clouds.” As Rosselli explains, each pair of bedrooms mirrors the other, and so too the bathrooms – the only difference being one has a shower, the other a bath, as requested.
As the house is mainly used for holidays, practicality and ease of maintenance are paramount with its steel frame construction, corrugated iron exterior walls, metal window frames and termite-resistant plywood floors. There is also leaf protection to the gutters.
An array of photovoltaic cells on the roof provide electricity generation and solar panels provide hot water. There is an existing inverter and, once batteries are installed, there’s the option of going completely off grid.
There are three large water tanks. The main one feeding the house goes through an initial water filter and there are additional filters for the kitchen water.
Exterior Living Spaces
The pool and pond sit in front of the house, down two terraces along a short grassy path. Large and classically kidney shaped, the saltwater pool is 2.3m-deep at one end and falling to ankle depth at the other. There are shallow “beaches” at both ends to sit and relax. The large deck that surrounds it is perfect for lounging and sunbathing. Looking up to the house above the massive dry-stone wall, the sky disappears into the trees.
The garden, which is threaded with dry-stone walls built by local artisans, is low maintenance and yet abundant with two dams for irrigation. Landscaping is primarily with native species and fruit trees.
One third of the property is cleared. The bushland is a lovely area to walk through, planted with a number of rare natives as well as fruit trees, including persimmons, jackfruit, apples, grapefruit, mulberries, lemons, finger limes and mangoes.
With such a stunning context, the will to enhance the “valley with the view” was strong. Where once there was vacant land, time energy and creativity have restored the land and created a connected experience at Way Way House.
This is further evidenced by a EPA communal programme one of the current owners put in place to plant over 2,500 trees locally to encourage the endangered glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami). (There are 20 mating pairs today) The house has a good future with regular visitors such as glossy black-cockatoos, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, sea hawks, wattlebirds, swamp pheasants, catbirds, tawny frogmouths and a whole host of other birdlife.
In time, new owners will themselves enjoy the custodianship of the land bringing new creativity to the experience of Way Way House. However, the constant will remain, the spectacular view and its spectacular sunsets at the end of a day.
Grassy Head Road, Way Way NSW 2447
House: 4 Bed, 2 Bath, Large Open Plan Living
Studio: 1 Bed, Living Space
Garage: 3 Car (& multiple parking)
Total Internal Living Area (approx.)
202 sq m (2,174 sq ft)
Internal Living Area - House (approx.)
160 sq m (1,722 sq ft)
Internal Living Area - Studio (approx.)
42 sq m (452 sq ft)
Internal Area - Garage (approx.)
54 sq m (581 sq ft)
18.0 m x 6.5 m (59 ft x 21 ft)
Land Area (approx.)
3.34 ha (8.24 ac)
Viewings by appointment
Modern House Estate Agents
National: 1300 814 768
International: +61 2 8014 5363
The Way Way House lies on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales, a few minutes drive from Scotts Head and Middle Head beaches, and adjoining Yarriabini National Park. The sheltered Scotts Head beach is ideal for children, while Middle Head is secluded and the perfect place for a walk at any time of the year. The sea is surprisingly warm – 24 to 26 in summer and 18-20 in winter – on this part of the coast due to the East Coast Current from the north, which comes down as far as South West Rocks (a few kilometres south of Scotts Head) before recirculating back up the coast. Sightings of whales (migration during June to November) can be from one of the many beaches or headlands.
The Nambucca Valley vegetation types are Dry Sclerophyll, sub-tropical forests, grasslands and forested wetlands bringing diversity of indigenous flora and fauna species. The Way Way garden is planted with banksias, grass trees, cedars, hoop pine and bangalow palms all collected from the local area by a local approved nursery in Boggy Creek, Bellingen.
The gardens are watered when required from two of the tanks and an irrigation system from the base dam can be used if further planting is done in the paddocks below the house.
The towering rainforests of Yarriabini National Park are a 20 minute drive from Way Way house where the bangalow palm lined creeks and the picnic area of tall hoop pines are world class. The dramatic coastal views from the summit of Mt Yarriabini (498m; meaning ‘koala rolling’ to the Indigenous original owners) include South West Rocks to the south and Coffs Harbour to the north. Western side views range over the local farm holdings of banana, lychee, longan and macadamia plantations to the Great Dividing Range.
In many ways the house is a climatic and birdlife observation deck. North easterlies in summer cool the house and in winter the southerlies blow over the top as the house is protected.
In winter the mist from the ocean travels across the coastal plain in the evening and then seeps out to sea at sunrise a spectacular event every time. Northerly storms and lightning at sea can be observed unfolding.So too large birds of prey like white bellied sea-eagles and brahminy kites floating on air currents.
Locally sourced food from Woolgoolga to Eungai provide excellent quality produce from fish co-ops, buffalo mozzarella, bananas (the Nambucca Valley is the furthest south that bananas grow commercially), organic growers markets, chickens and ducks. The larger centres of Macksville, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour provide major supermarkets, healthcare and transport hubs.
A secret location, an easy 5 hours drive north of Sydney.
Whether working in the residential or commercial sphere, Sydney-based Luigi Rosselli is known for his ability to create sensitive and sympathetic buildings, both attuned to their environment and his clients’ needs. He’s not one to seek out fame or endorsement – although in his long career in Australia, he has picked up a number of awards for his work, including the AIA’s Wilkinson Award for residential architecture in 2006 for the Mount Minderoo farmhouse near Mittagong. “One of the clients said he wanted ultra-modern, while his wife is from the country, and her dream was for an old Australian farmhouse, with verandas,” said the jury chair. Clearly, Rosselli is adept at navigating challenging briefs.
Rosselli was born and raised in Milan and came to Australia in 1980 to work with Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects on Parliament House in Canberra. Three years later, he moved to Sydney and set up his practice. His body of work encompasses a diverse range of projects – notable amongst these have been the award-winning Great Wall of WA (a rammed earth wall which incorporates short-term accommodation at a cattle station) and the Art Gallery of NSW restaurant as well as many residential commissions, including new houses, additions to heritage houses and contemporary apartments.
A key aspect of Rosselli’s design process is the first stage, with his hand-rendered concept drawings. “I learnt my drawing skills from Giurgola, a master of the craft, when I helped do the Parliament House sketches,” he has said. More than 1,000 of those sketches made up an exhibition of his work, with a number being included in the book, 30 Years of Sketches.
While Rosselli’s work has been featured in many books and magazines, this is the first time photographs and details of the Way Way House have been published.
Photo by Jeffrey Blewett
Perspectives: 30 Years of Sketches by Luigi Rosselli Architect by Davina Jackson
Sketch: Page 52
Viewings by appointment
Modern House Estate Agents
National: 1300 814 768
International: +61 2 8014 5363