This has been an interesting project. It involved my immediate clients as well as their parents and children as well. The primary focus was on multi-generational living. From this brief I designed two separate adjacent houses.

Project Name: River House
Studio Name:
Neil Cownie Architect
Completion date: 2015
Building levels: 3
Location: Perth, Australia
Photography: Angelita Bonetti and Robert Frith

River House by Neil Cownie Architect - Sheet1
Exterior View ©Angelita Bonetti and Robert Frith

The family have strong UK connections. This influenced the external aesthetics. My clients also wanted to embrace the great outdoors of Australia. That led to a house that was quite conservative yet, also opened up to the outdoors. It connected internal and external spaces with the use of warm materials.

It next to the river and the views were all important. Almost every room has river views. The house design takes advantage of passive solar design, and cross ventilation. The two houses work together through their external spaces. The grandparents have access to their children’s house and grandchildren’s house.

River House by Neil Cownie Architect - Sheet2
Kitchen+Dining ©Angelita Bonetti and Robert Frith

They can see the children at play in their cubby house cave just outside their window. They can be in their own house and watch their grandchildren at play. The house has inbuilt versatility. As the children grow their needs change. The house has been able to adapt and ebb and flow with these different changes.

It’s designed to do that. Having the grandparents next door is great for making sure that they are okay and then visa versa. The grandparents help out with the children. It’s great family multi-generational living.

River House by Neil Cownie Architect - Sheet3
Outdoor Seating ©Angelita Bonetti and Robert Frith

Both households have overseas guests. The house responds to that as well as the guest accommodation is separate to the main house. Their guests could come and go and live independently for longer periods if they wish.

The clients are happy with the way the house design maximises winter sun in and keeps the summer sun out. Cross-ventilation and then the access to the river and the views has been quite a benefit to the house.


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