At first glance this angular building is intriguing. Sleek, clean lines are striking. Stark monochrome contrast is imposing, and a functional driveway appears key. A stunning flowering bougainvillea offers an eye-catching splash of colour by the doorway.
Step through the beautiful oversized door and this clever blend of striking design and functionality spills inside.
This is the home of Nicole Bricknell. The last 10 years have been very public and very distressing for Nicole with the divorce of her ex husband and distancing from his conviction.
Now, Nicole is moving on.
Her new home, which is her own creation, marks a new chapter and fresh start. And, she tells ORM, she couldn’t be happier. “Every area of my life has improved since I moved into this house,” she says with a contented smile. “I am working in real estate and have really enjoyed being able to focus on my career. I’m extremely happy with how my life is going now. I’m a single mum with teenage children. Since we’ve moved into this house, everything good has happened for us. Really, everything has turned around. I’m happy and I’m settled here.”
It was an introduction by a mutual friend that led to the inception of this new home. She met Grant Fielder, Director at Aston Milan over lunch and was talking passionately about the kind of property she wanted to create. Nicole had spoken to a number of project homebuilders but knew straight away they didn’t have the experience, knowledge or capacity to create what she wanted. Nicole also knew she had to work to a budget and really wanted a builder that did everything from design to handover. Swiftly, she was pointed in the direction of, and in conversation with, Cesar Alvarez Solis, Director of Design, Aston Milan. Within 48 hours the house was conceptualised.
Solis says, “I see my role as an interpreter. I listened carefully to what Nicole wanted, as I do with all my clients. She wanted simple lines, low maintenance and expressed straight away she does a lot of entertaining – hence the driveway.
“She needed privacy at the front of the property and wanted the house to be really open at the back, maximising the view. Nicole was very involved in the process. When she asked any question along the way, I told her the advantages and disadvantages. That’s what clients’ needs to know, the facts not opinion.”
Nicole adds, “From my very first conversation when we stood on the block of land together I said, ‘see this view, I want to be able to see that from every room.’ And that is exactly what we have achieved.”
The central atrium was Solis’ brainchild.
The calm open space enables light to flow through from front to back, and ensures the back view is visible throughout the house right from the first step through the front door. It enables total horizontal and vertical communication and connects the flow through the house.
“The key to the design was balance,” says Solis. “Nicole said she likes black. We know black’s not a colour, but it is easy to work with. You can, however, use it too much so I focused on black accents so it didn’t take over. The overall design of the house is neutral so she can add colour simply by seasons to define the mood.”
Coast Rican born Solis’ grew up in a house that thrived on communication. He began his studies there before heading to New York to complete them. He’s now been designing homes for 17 years and transferred to Australia for work 10 years ago and is now part of Aston Milan. His sophistication and versatile cultural experience has become the trademark to his design conceptions.
“There is a real advantage when you don’t belong to the culture,” he says. “You can observe the culture rather than being immersed in it. You take that and interpret it. When you listen to the client, you can build homes that are reflective of the lifestyle of the client. It’s important to understand how a family communicates, challenges they face, and how they are going to evolve and grow in future years. You’ll see in this house there are several areas for socialising. That will be increasingly important with teenage children. In each area you can have a private conversation, but you can still see across the house, there is no hiding. One of the biggest achievements is to give every home soul. Design is so subjective, the key is how you feel inside; how it feels, the journey, where it takes you. I don’t follow trends, styles or latest fads. My role is to take the client on a journey from the front door. I imagine what they will see left and right from every angle , is about reflecting the clients needs base in physical elements and emotional part of the house. Inside this house it is very reflective of Nicole’s personality.”
Nicole’s vision was clear from the beginning.
“I’m a single mum with three children,” she says. “I had a set budget to stick to and I made it clear that couldn’t move. I knew from experience that building costs can blow out; they always end up higher than expected. I didn’t want to do this project that way. From the start I said I want to build a luxury home but I want to be in control of the spend. It was locked in. Aston Milan gave me a price to build as standard, a base figure, and then I decided what I wanted to customise and upgrade.”
The kitchen was a crucial area where Nicole had specific requests to work around. A large marble kitchen bench with chairs lined along one side sits invitingly underneath rose gold hanging lights.
“I explained to Cesar what I wanted to build,” she says. “I love to cook, most weeks I’ll cook four or five nights a week and spend a couple of hours in the kitchen. I wanted to be able to cook on the stove and have a conversation with my guests at the kitchen bench. People always congregate at the kitchen bench, in any house, and I wanted to make a feature of that. The messy stuff goes on behind in the butler’s kitchen. When I have family round and I’m entertaining, they don’t need to see all the preparation or clearing up.”
Right now, there is no mess, it’s pristine, but her point is well made!
The fridge sits out of view, as does a second gallery kitchen with cooker for the children to use whenever they like, storage and a laundry area. Guests see none of that; their eye instead is drawn to the pretty outdoor herb garden.
“Upstairs in my bedroom I can wake up, open my blinds, take in the view of the water. It’s a beautiful start to every day,” she says.
Outside Nicole’s bedroom is a seating area, designed with a few moments of serenity for a busy working mum in mind. Here she can sit and take in the whole vista and feel at peace – whether it’s summer or winter.
“The powder room is my other real wow factor. I customised the design to use rose gold in here and in my ensuite, to connect them. I love this room, it’s my statement. It’s elegant, fun, and practical.”
She shows me a clever sink with sliding wooden panel where ladies can rest their makeup mag. It’s a unique, thoughtful component that speaks loudly about her character and attention to detail.
Outside, a massive table sits next to a bar area. “Nicole told me, I have several key pieces that we will need to work around,” Solis says. “Like this stunning table that was hand crafted in Sydney. So we literally designed the outdoor dining around it’s dimensions. There are also several pieces of art that we framed with walls rather than building and then finding pieces to hang within the space.”
You really can walk around this house and flow into the next room, then the next. How was that achieved?
“During the design process, I applied Feng Shui,” Solis says. “That is applied for every area of life; work, business, heart, growth. Every area is then designed to get the best out of the family and fulfil maximum potential and prosperity.” I believe that there has been a positive impact on Nicole and her family’s life after they have moved into this new home which gives me the greatest satisfaction as an internationally awarded designer.
“We had to remove all the bad energy first,” says Nicole, who’s recently started the next chapter of her career in real estate with Amir Mian Prestige Property Agency at the Brickworks in Southport. “I’m taking my career to another level. This house has helped me start afresh.”
Homes with soul
Aston Milan is a boutique holistic design focused homebuilder delivering a unique experience. The focus is helping customers build homes with soul.
With over 30 years’ experience, Aston Milan has assembled the right trade contractors, supply partners, as well as people who have refined the entire process which ensures cost efficiencies and consistent quality building.
Read more on the Aston Milan website: https://www.astonmilan.com.au