Vasse House sits within a fast-expanding residential estate 10 minutes outside of Busselton in Western Australia’s southwest - a sore thumb in a sea of volume-built project homes. The surrounding dwellings often cover up to 75% of their site area, filling the flat and sandy lots with two-car garages, theatre rooms, master suites and alfresco dining areas. The brief for these houses isn’t set by any one family or individual, but is determined by a fundamental economic condition: that for many Australians, these houses are their primary asset, and as such must retain their value for resale and mortgage equity.
Beyond its site, it is from this economic context that Vasse House posits an alternative, aware that to be useful as an experiment in housing for everyday Western Australians, it needs to address the economic reality of this architecturally underrepresented demographic.
Four rooms, two bathrooms, and two nooks symmetrically flank one large room. The house is mostly closed to the south and mostly open to the north, facing a garden across a long, skinny veranda. A detached square double garage is twisted in orientation to align with a skewed northern boundary. The house, a rectangular plan 28m x 4.8m, is oriented due north and setback the minimum permitted distance from the southern boundary.
A sprawling native garden starts at the kerb and makes its way up to the building line, continuing between the two pavilions and linking the public street and private garden with a foreign permeability. A long enfilade spans the southern side of the house and provides the internal circulation, efficiently coupled with a 600mm strip accommodating the kitchen bench, laundry, and potential study nooks. Each room has a sliding door which opens onto the veranda, allowing the narrow deck to augment the internal circulation.
The efficiency in plan is carried through with efficiency in construction. Structural engineering is entirely typical, to-code details. The project was delivered using a standard Home Building Works Contract – no contract administration – with the successful outcome owing to the simplicity of the construction and documentation.
With a budget of $260,000 (costed in 2020), Vasse House is comparable in cost to its volume-built neighbours. Like them, it offers four bedrooms, a two-car garage, and a second living room. It is built with conventional stud walls, sits on the same slab-on-ground, and is topped with the same trussed roof. However, where other houses deliver an inefficient warren of corridors—pushing the living and alfresco to the rear no matter the orientation, Vasse House aligns to the north and opens to it, giving each room generous access to light, fresh air, a veranda, and a view of the sprawling garden.