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The best of both worlds

When you feel a pull towards both the country and the city, the perfect solution is to find a happy medium that provides the best of both worlds.

When Davina and James Cuevas’s friends visit their Hahndorf home, they say it’s like stepping into a retreat.

Sweeping vineyards from neighbouring Hahndorf Hill Winery are on show through floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as the undulating landscape of the couple’s 13 hectares, which sit at the beginning of a section of the Heysen Trail.

“The vineyard changes with the seasons and creates a different picture every day,” Davina says.

There’s a sense of seclusion, even though their haven is just a stroll from the amenities of the town.

It wasn’t an easy path to their new home, but the couple agree it was well worth the wait. They initially bought a block at Littlehampton, but just as they were at council approval stage, James had a change of heart. “We went back to the drawing board, found this place and it took about 10 months to buy,” James says.

When they could finally call the parcel of land their own, they rented nearby and had planned on an 18-month process, but Davina says they knew this would be a home they would live in for a long time and wanted every detail to be just right, with no regrets.

Four years later, they were moving into the home their imaginations had created.

One of their first design briefs was for architect Tim Hodges to draw up a striking entry. The first look inside the home gives the feel of a sanctuary; a sunken lounge is the perfect place for James, Davina and their six-year-old daughter Alexis to enjoy time as a family.

While the lounge, kitchen and dining are all open plan, each area is cleverly defined as a space of its own. A double-sided fireplace separates the lounge and dining table.

The area serves as a communal family space — somewhere for Davina’s big Italian family and James’s Spanish family to come together. The kitchen overlooks the generous dining table and out to the deck.

Ease of entertaining was high on the agenda, along with finding the perfect balance between child-friendly and sleek design.

With an eye for interiors, Davina was always going to be the one to take on the lion’s share of responsibility for the home’s design.

Davina’s most practical inspiration was simply walking around the home they were renting and carefully looking at what worked and what she would want to change.

She has managed to achieve a modern, sleek home that also works for a child. The key is in the rumpus room, with an entire wall of cupboards to hide away the toys, but provide easy access when Alexis wants to play with them.

The room can be shut off with a heavy glass door, which mitigates the inevitable noise of children playing, but allowing James and Davina to keep a watchful eye on what’s happening.

The home will evolve as Alexis grows — the cupboards in the rumpus room can be removed and transformed into desk space for studying. A spare room has been created with walk-in-wardrobe for when she outgrows her current room.

The clutter-free, sleek aesthetic continues throughout the home. The colour palette is a modern mix of grey concrete and furnishings, combined with touches of black throughout. Even the air conditioning is hidden. Air Everywhere created custom vents they’d never before installed that run along ceilings and bulkheads in thin black lines.

The home has been designed so all those things that often sit on benchtops are hidden, but easily to hand when needed.

“I don’t like clutter and I wanted everything concealed, but we still needed to live here,” Davina says.

A scullery runs behind the kitchen for all the prep work and storage while entertaining. The refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher are all hidden within the cabinetry. The downdraft rangehood from Rawson’s Appliances is integrated into the benchtop and pops up only when needed.

“My vision for this house was completely different to what I thought I’d have four years ago,” Davina says.

“I thought I’d go more glamorous and glitzy with chandeliers, but my taste really did change.”

Davina’s preferences have veered more industrial, with the raw look of the concrete floors matched with massive concrete slab walls, poured on-site during the build.

“We wanted something sleek and ultra-modern but still timeless,” she says.

Davina’s design stamp may shine in the home, but James has some areas dedicated to him. The gym is enclosed by glass walls that look out to the garage. It’s a peek into the Japanese car collection James has acquired over the years.

Another favourite spot is the home theatre, walls lined with posters of James’s favourite action films, although Davina did manage to sneak in a Dirty Dancing poster for herself.

The eight-seater room is a sumptuous retreat, complete with a bar at the back of the room for refreshments.

The theatre, along with the rest of the home, is controlled by Google Home. The automation system, set up by Envy Electrical Automation & Data allows James and Davina to operate the pool, spa, blinds, air conditioning, security, garage door and PA system at the touch of a button.

The commercial-grade air conditioning is as sleek and discreet as everything else in the home, only discernible in the stylish black lines running across the ceiling.

Being in the Hills, the open spaces are kept warm not only with the fireplaces, but also with hydronic underfloor heating.

Initially, Davina wanted a two-storey home, but architect Tim — a long-time friend of James’s — convinced them the views would be even more spectacular if they extended the height of the home while keeping it all on one floor.

“As a group, we decided on the preferred location, but the house probably could have sat on a number of sites on the block and the views would have been just as good,” Tim says.

The home was cantilevered to best make use of the land that drops off at the edge of the master bedroom. Standing in the room with its vast windows, it feels as though there’s no barrier between the inside space and the outdoors.

James, who founded Wireless Communications and recently sold the business, wanted to employ clients with whom he’d formed relationships over the years. The couple enlisted Klemm Homes to undertake the build, and they couldn’t have been happier with their choice.

“We all had a very good relationship — they held our hand every step of the way,” Davina says. “I sit in the bedroom and watch the kangaroos go past,” James says. “I think it’s a bit surreal still.”

This story first appeared in the November 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.