Grand Designs to showcase unique Torquay home

January 27, 2023 BY

Fiona Ribbera and Lachlan Shepherd in the hallway of the Coombes Road house that was inspired by a previous Phillip Island home featured in Grand Designs. Photos: TIM LAMACRAFT

A multi-million-dollar all-concrete home designed and built in Torquay will be showcased in the latest season of Grand Designs Australia.

The architect of the Coombes Road property says the home will divide viewers’ opinions, yet it was designed with a clear purpose – to keep it simple for co-owner Fiona Ribbera, who is legally blind.

“It was all based around her briefing, her calmness. She’s only got peripheral vision, so that’s the idea behind the monolithic palate,” Torquay architect Lachlan Shepherd said.

With Fiona’s husband Sal fulfilling the role of owner/builder, she and Mr Shepherd were given free rein over its shape, colour and form.

“That was exciting and interesting for me, I love concrete… in terms of that experience it was quite unique, that a client would afford you the luxury of one material,” Mr Shepherd said.

“The beauty of concrete is that you kind of don’t know what you’re going to get, each wall is going to look different, but Sal and Fiona understood that. Minor imperfections were not a big issue for her.”

Although he describes the house as “an above-ground mausoleum”, Mr Ribbera said he was not displeased with it as that was part of the deal he made with his wife when they left their former home in Berwick.

“She’s always been really good with designing stuff, and she and Lachlan got along really, really well…(they) wanted concrete and that’s what we got,” he said, laughing.

“Everything is concrete, the desk, the bed, the kitchen benchtop… people don’t believe it when we tell them the only thing that’s timber is the joinery and the doors.”

With a film crew watching on, Mr Ribbera said the project that started construction in mid-2018 was beset with several difficulties that included him being on dialysis, his firing of the concreter, the pandemic, and cost blowouts.

The house was budgeted to cost about $1.3 million but Mr Riberra estimated the final figure to be closer to $2 million when filming finished in late 2021.

Due to the lack of taxis on the Surf Coast, Ms Ribbera often finds herself isolated and the couple plan to move closer to family in Geelong.

The house has been on the market since late last year for between $3,500,000-$3,850,000.

The Ribbera’s Coombes Road home is due to appear on Grand Designs Australia on February 1.