Bellbird House

Blackburn, Victoria

After a long search, our clients Cameron and Nicole found a property in the Bellbird Area of Blackburn, a classified National Trust area that has been protected against significant development since the 1960s. The Bellbird Area is a suburban bush setting, connected to the Blackburn Bush Corridor a critical habitat for birdlife and animals. The streetscapes retain a peaceful ambience with no footpaths, dominated by native vegetation. The site featured 41 existing established native trees, all of which were preserved in the creation of this home nestled amongst, and suffused by, the natural landscape.

Cameron and Nicole’s brief to us was for a single storey family home that blended warmth and comfort, which was responsive to and respectful of the natural beauty of its bush surroundings.

Thanks so much. I love this house. It’s a credit to Bower to come up with this design. Its so warm and welcoming.

Cam, Client, Bellbird House

The wonderful tree canopies, textures, smells, sounds and colours of the site became the key drivers for the design. Internal sightlines at eye level were dominated by trunks and neighbouring properties, so we gave preference to abundant north-facing highlight windows which direct views up and out to the treetops above, flooding the interiors with daylight. Internally lined with Tasmanian Oak, these highlights developed into a synthesis of the external expression of the building, as angled roofs reach up to the tree canopies above.

A light, natural material palette internally starts with a central spine of Australian limestone cladding, which wraps from the external entry into the heart of the house. External materials, such as black-oiled bandsawn Accoya, were selected to provide a contrasting backdrop to the grey-green of the eucalypts while mirroring bark like vertical texture. Centred around an open-plan kitchen, dining and living space which opens up to the landscape at the rear, the house is arranged to meet Cameron and Nicole’s brief for spaces to share with their two daughters, and spaces of solitude for all their individual pursuits – music, reading, study.

Bellbird House actively preserves this important area of natural habitat within suburbia. It is a house of activity and togetherness, a home where a family can connect with the natural environment and each other.

Jess King, Associate, Bower Architecture

This project is the result of a wonderful collaborative relationship between architect, builder and client. The building team treated each detail with craft and care, resulting in a meticulous outcome. Landscape designer Sam Cox created a whimsical and meandering garden featuring an abundance of native grasses. Cameron and Nicole have planted over 1400 indigenous plants and installed a pond to encourage wildlife back to the site.

Bellbird House actively preserves this important area of natural habitat within suburbia. It is a house of activity and togetherness, a home where a family can connect with the natural environment and each other.

Cam, Nicole and all of the project team are honoured and proud that Bellbird House has been shortlisted in the 2022 Victorian Architecture Awards, Residential Architecture Houses (New) category.


The house makes Cam feel proud when he’s in the garden and people stop to tell him how they love the design and they’re glad we designed something beautiful that sits well in the environment.

Nicole, Client, Bellbird House

The house works so well; everything is within reach yet everyone has their own spaces to enjoy.

Nicole, Client, Bellbird House


Passive and active design principles are essential to the success of Bellbird House which achieves a 7.1 star rating. Passively, north-facing highlight windows flood the interiors with natural light and operable segments provide and exhausting effect. Considered sun-shading protects during summer while harnessing winter sun angles; vertical batten screens to west and east provide additional protection. The entry hall way provides a long view and connection from front to rear, and facilitates cross-flow ventilation, as do carefully placed smaller south and west windows.

 All double glazing is high-performance thermally-broken aluminium. External stud walls are 140mm to facilitate bulk R4.0 insulation batts and Crisp Projects also ensured the building was wrapped and sealed to minimise heat transfer. Cladding is sustainably-sourced oiled Accoya timber, with PEFC locally-sourced, sustainably-managed Silver Top Ash highlights and natural limestone cladding from WA. Internally, PEFC Tasmanian Oak lines the ceilings and solid recycled timber features in main joinery pieces, celebrating beauty in re-use of a natural material.

 Thermal mass principles act via the limestone cladding and insulated concrete slab with hydronic heating to main living areas, while Australian made 100% wool carpet adds warmth. A car charger is situated in the garage.

Immersed in a preserved bushland setting in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, this calm and composed new home inspires a restful pace for family life.

Hayley Curnow, as originally published in Houses issue 148. Click here to read.

Project Info
Traditional People and Custodians

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people of the Kulin Nation

Architecture and Interior Design

Bower Architecture & Interiors


Crisp Projects

Shannon McGrath

Alexandre Lourie, AL Film Australia


Sam Cox Landscapes

Styling and Art

Jess Kneebone