• Advice
  • Exceptional Builds


Okapa Rise in Dunsborough, Western Australia showcases the approach of local builders – Bluewater Building.

DESIGNER | Evan Williams

BUILDER | Bluewater Building

LOCATION | Dunsborough

CONSTRUCTION TIME | 4.5 months to lock up - 11 month to Practical Completion

In the first of our features on the builders that make our homes exceptional, we look at how tapping into the right network can make all the difference when it comes to creating a home that suits your style and your budget. HouseLab speaks to Anton Smith from Bluewater Building about the benefits of local knowledge and how a little bit of understanding in the early stages can go a long way into the future.

Briefed as a family home to entertain, and situated on a semi-rural block in Dunsborough, three hours south of Perth, Okapa Rise speaks volumes on the approach of local builder Anton Smith, who has been working in the increasingly popular coastal area for over a decade. 

Deservedly so, the home that has been designed around the swimming pool and references the modularity of shipping containers, won the 2016 MBA award for best timber framed home above $750,000. It is something Smith and his team are immensely proud of as he points out, 'We’ve spent 12 years refining the details of our timber framed homes and work closely with James Hardie to ensure each build is as efficient as possible.' The result of this efficiency is a faster, cheaper and more sustainable build as there is less waste, and Smith sees no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to their tried and tested framing.

Natural ventilation and shading from the harsh sun are key considerations in Western Australia.

With a combined 50 years of experience and a wealth of local knowledge, Smith and the team at Bluewater come from a background in carpentry, and thus the level of detail in their work brings a traditional level of craftsmanship to their contemporary homes. It is a value-add for their clients, which begins at the briefing stage where expectations of size are balanced with budget.

'We begin the conversation with a ballpark square metre rate that ultimately informs the size of the home, and in many cases we can actually reduce that without reducing the experience of the space.' This was the case in the Okapa Rise home, where a smaller footprint resulted in parts of the budget being allocated to better finishes and a higher level of detail in the construction while still staying within the financial expectations of the client.

Understanding what will work within the budget is key to Bluewater’s methodology, and working with local designer Evan Williams, Smith says, 'There is no point showing a client a concept for a home they simply can’t afford so we run everything past our suppliers and engineers before we present anything.' In the case of Okapa Rise, the owners entrusted Bluewater with key design decisions and the selection of fixtures and finishes.

Anton and the team

Part of this trust is making sure the materials that are suggested are actually available, and in regional areas this includes them being on site at the right time. Though being based three hours from Perth, many finishes are not readily available and in some cases will no longer be stocked by the time a home is being built, so Bluewater manage this by reserving their selections with the supplier in advance. This can be anything from a type of stone to a kitchen tap, but in doing so they avoid time wasted waiting for things to arrive or having to make a new selection.

Horizontal and vertical cladding add to the visual space of Okapa Rise.

One of the big decisions in the Okapa Rise house was to use a combination of vertical and horizontal Stria cladding to accentuate the geometric appearance of the home, though this also assisted in meeting local regulations regarding flame zones. Leaning on their local knowledge, Bluewater assess their homes early in the process against these regulations, especially in the rural settings that house many of their builds, but the lay of the land informs more than just resistance to fire.

Peppermint trees, common to Bluewater’s home turf of the south west of WA, are also the preferred home of the endangered western ringtail possum and thus the trees are now protected by state law. This can obviously present issues in design and approval stages of a home as can issues like underground water. Building on their local knowledge, Smith and his team can instantly identify issues such as this through the type of flora that exists on a block and, in turn, can create solutions to work around environmental issues.

Another consideration, and different to homes built in our eastern states, is the light in Western Australia. Designed and built to make the most of the unique solar environment of Dunsborough while maximising the south-easterly views – the Okapa Rise house draws northern light from the rear and is orientated to maximise cross-ventilation meaning the air-con is rarely required. Full height sliding doors facilitate the winter sun while large eaves protect the living areas during summer.

Seemingly simple, these informed decisions through design and construction, combined with a network of trusted local trades, culminate in Bluewater’s ability to build site-specific, custom homes that are financially and environmentally sustainably efficient - and in regional areas, building that reputation is as important to them as each home they create.


- Be realistic about budget by allowing roughly $2,000 per square meter for construction.

- A smaller home may mean you can spend more on the details.

- Working with a builder who knows the landscape can save you time and money throughout the process.



Designed, built or moved into an exceptional built home recently? Share it with us to be featured.