Sue and Ross Stutchbury and their three university-aged children moved into their new Belmont Bay home by Lake Macquarie almost a year ago. But the family of water-lovers started to build the four-bedroom two-storey home in April 2018.
The kids live downstairs and they're upstairs enjoying the view, which the house design has perfectly captured. An eighth of their budget was spent on glass, specifically double glazed windows at the front of the house. The windows, which weigh a quarter of a tonne, had to be lifted in by crane.
"There was no project home that you could base it on, with the shape of the block and the access and also wanting to live upstairs, so we decided to design something that suited the block," Sue says.
"My husband wanted the sunroom/living to open up with bi-fold doors. I wanted a greenhouse off the kitchen so I could have lettuce and herbs."
They knew they wanted something on the water. Ross is a sailor, their building designer, Sean Harrison, is an ex-sailor and a lot of sailors worked on the house. Sue does stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. They moved nearby while they were building so they could keep an eye on everything.
"Many of the skills for the venture came from the talented skiff sailing community, including building designer Sean Harrison of Harrison Building Designs. Sean presented some guidance for us to work within and was our counsel when Sue and I were unresolved," Ross says.
"The house design takes advantage of the view by elevating the building to maximum height, and, in doing so, provides storage space under the house for water tanks and sail boards and canoes."
They had much to consider when building on the lake.
Their property had acid sulfate soil that had to be neutralised when taken offsite.
They also had to make sure nothing from the building site polluted the lake.
A lot of heavy duty plastic and marine grade materials have been used on the home's exterior.
"The southerly buster comes up the coast; it's a strong wind. We had to make sure the house and the windows could take that impact when it came," Sue says.
"Harrison turned the ideas to plans, and managed the foundation, structural engineering and Basix consultants through to development approval. The plans were then handed to Matthew Waters and Dave Johnson to lead the build from the ground up. The build was well-organised, well planned and well thought out, with materials and trades moving through as required," Ross says.
Sue said that as the build progressed they were able to assess and make changes if needed.
"We both had elements we wanted incorporated into the design. It's like a marriage; it's like a compromise. It was Sean's job to bring it all together and make sure it worked," Sue says.
"Ross was happy for me to design the kitchen and (decide) the colours."
This was their family's first build and Sue says she has never had to make so many decisions, from skirting boards to architraves.
"I was at a point where I couldn't make a decision. I'd go to the shops and look at the vegies and not know which ones to pick," she jokes.
She's still working on the interior.
"Quite often you need to live in a space for a while before you know how to furnish it. Because it's light and glass, lighter colours seem to work better," she says.
Their master bathtub is quite striking and large, they used to joke the house was built around the bathtub.
The pair enjoy the sun room with bi-folding doors opening towards the lake and bi-folding windows to the east and north. The room can be closed off selectively to shelter different weather conditions.
They love how they can open the house to catch the breeze. A covered deck on the ground floor is open for entertaining, and the whole family tries to have breakfast here at least once a week.
And, of course, it's only a few steps away from a paddle or a sail.
"We're very happy with the whole place; we feel very lucky," Sue says.