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Image Credit: Classic Building & Design

The Lay of the Land


Building a house always presents its challenges, especially when the land you’ve got has its lumps, bumps and unusual shapes. But perhaps that’s the thing you love about it. A flat block is certainly convenient for building, sure – but that rolling hill or rocky outcrop sure does give you a better view. Sydney Home Design + Living’s Thomas Henry breaks out the sketchpad and pencils with Matthew Waters, Director of Devine Drafting & Design, to take a look at the challenges presented by odd blocks of land and how he’s overcome this to build some of Australia’s most breathtaking forever homes.

Devine Drafting & Design is a housing design team that provides its drafting expertise across many areas of New South Wales and Victoria. Waters and the team specialise in both residential and commercial designs, while also working on specialist disability accommodation group homes and domestic apartment buildings.

“I started Devine Drafting in 2011,” says Waters. “Since then, Devine Drafting has grown to a team of seven including administrative and accounts officers, with collectively over 50 years of experience in the industry.” In this time, Devine Drafting & Design has become something of a specialist at designing homes that occupy interesting and challenging plots of land, leading to ingenious and creative solutions to realising a client’s dream home.


“Yes, absolutely; there have been a number of difficult blocks where we have had to work with the land to come up with a design that both meets the client’s goals and suits the land,” says Waters. He’s found that many of the most interesting lots of land are in rural areas, with rolling hills, well-established trees and rocky outcrops, which play a role in dictating the best location for construction. This also has a hand in the home’s orientation, taking advantage of what nature gives you. “We love a good challenge and the variety that each unique block offers.”

One of Devine Drafting & Design’s more interesting projects was located in the Southern Tablelands, an incredible off-the-grid block which meant the design needed to be completely self-sufficient. Extreme weather, like high winds, freezing winters and hot summers were accounted for. “The topography of the land was a challenge, as well as being quite rocky ground, so a standard slab-on-ground design was not viable,” said Waters. “An interconnected pod/pavilion style of design was created to work with the land.” 

The dwelling was orientated to utilise the sun, so the home is naturally heated in winter, but maintains a cooler temperature in summer. The location was important to ensure the solar panels were in a prime position to capture the sun’s rays and power the home.

Another home that Waters designed was built on a block containing an 11-metre fall from the back of the lot. Waters said, “This was incorporated into the design by creating a double-storey, split-level home – lots of stairs!”


At the beginning of a project, Waters and the team take the time to prepare themselves prior to the initial meeting with a desktop site investigation. This involves reviews of deposited plans and uses certified instruments to gauge any sight-specific issues, land restrictions, covenants or easements that need to be addressed in discussion with the client.

“The first meeting is quite an eye-opening experience to gain insight into their home life,” said Waters. “The first client consultation includes a detailed discussion on the full scope of the client’s project, the block of land and collating the client’s design specifications.” Devine Drafting & Design makes the process easy by breaking down these requirements into three simple tiers. Tier one covers your needs: these items are considered essential to the way you live. Tier two accounts for wants, including features for the design or trends you’ve seen that you’d like incorporated into the build. The third and final tier is your wish list. These are usually unessential items for your day-to-day living, but would be a part of your dream home. “We try to get to know how the clients live in their home now, what does and doesn’t work for them and how have their needs changed in recent years,” explains Waters. “Are they a new or growing family; do they have an aging parent living with them; are they older and downsizing; do they work from home or have kids studying in high school or university?”


Once the client’s desires are accounted for, the real work begins and the house is drafted up. This is where Waters and the team incorporate the landscape into the home, and vice versa. “In most cases, this can be incorporating steps into the home, to follow the topography of the land,” said Waters. “This can be as minor as a couple of steps in the middle of the house or an actual split-level home.” Waters also explains that sometimes a compromise on a client’s dream home can be difficult for the client to accept, but in every case, Devine Drafting & Design’s goal has always been to create homes that its clients will love.

A common feature that Waters and his team try to incorporate is a beautiful view. “There is usually a reason the client has purchased this block of land,” said Waters, “and highlighting that in the design of the home is crucial for them.” Several of Devine Drafting & Design’s clients have had land with incredible views of the countryside or the ocean that they want captured in their home. “This means that we need to design a layout with living areas and bedrooms in specific locations so the client can enjoy these views throughout the home,” said Waters. “One client in the Eurobodalla Shire region had fantastic ocean views from their block. Their double-storey design was to have bedrooms on the lower level, with the kitchen, living and dining area on the upper level alongside a large balcony that extended their living space outdoors, to fully appreciate the view.”

Water’s final suggestion is “to be as flexible as possible with the design. Standard or project home designs that you see in display villages are less able to be adapted to a complex block,” and as such, a custom-designed home is what you’ll be after.

Images courtesy of Devine Drafting & Design and Camelot Homes

Image Credit: Classic Building & Design
Image Credit: Classic Building & Design
Images courtesy of Devine Drafting & Design and Camelot Homes