The story of a determined woman who refused to give up on her dream.
For seven years Tani Richards was told no, no you can’t do that, no it’s not possible, no we can’t help you… no no no no no! But when it came to building her dream home, for this Perth woman there was no compromise and her refusal to take no for an answer has eventuated in this stunning land mark home, her Castle in the Sand.
After many years living abroad due to husband Tim’s career as a pilot, Tani Richards had very specific ideas about the home she wanted to build to accommodate their large family. With an ocean side lot in City Beach, what she visualised was a home that would blend perfectly with its surroundings, b environmentally friendly and make use of natural materials, be small in its foot-print to allow preservation of the Norfolk Pines and other flora on the block, be unique and reflect their eclectic taste and lifestyle and be … well.. a sandcastle!
Visualising the house was the easy part, finding someone however who could transform her ideas into the home she imagined was an entirely different story. It’s no surprise really – afterall… the house Tani imagined was not your typical home. Made largely of stone, it had rounded walls, cathedral style windows, turrets and a moat – and was quite unlike any other home in the neighbourhood, or anywhere in Australia for that matter.
Despite even her own architect father discouraging her vision, Tani was determined to see her dream home built. Doing the rounds for many years with various Perth builders, she was typically told that what she wanted was not possible or was influenced to convert her ideas into more traditional homes. It was not until she met James Shaw from Ecotect Architects in Swanbourne who specialise in eco-friendly homes that Tani finally found someone who was prepared to immerse themselves in her vision and translate all the elements on Tani’s wish-list into actual building plans.
With blueprints in hand the no’s kept coming. With contemporary ‘box’ homes the norm, her new fight was convincing the council and locals that Tani’s fantasy home would not be an eyesore in the conservative streetscape. Local council attempted to use The Sandcastle as a precedence to restrict homes in the area to only two storeys. The Richard’s won and eventually builders were contracted to get their new home underway – engaging a range of tradesman with age-old skills to work on the many aspects of the home that were truly unique. Highly skilled stone-masons constructed the limestone walls using traditional corbelling techniques, whilst wrought iron balustrading and gates were hand designed and made locally by Wayne Jeffries in medieval style. Timber artisans, custom made cabinetry for the kitchen and bathrooms to conform to the rounded shape of the rooms.
Many of the elements that lend to the home’s Gothic appearance were sourced overseas by the Richards. An antique cathedral window from France that Tim found in London was painstakingly restored by local glass artist Kim Fitzpatrick of Tradition Stained Glass, and is striking above the main entry that also features ancient village doors from China.
The recycled oak flooring was also shipped in from overseas as were the gothic style lights seen throughout the home that Tani searched high and low for before discovering in a Disneyland ‘fantasy’ display and tracking down the manufacturer.
Despite a few other ‘not-so-minor’ setbacks – including the primary contractor entering into receivership when the home was only 90% complete due to losses sustained on another project, the Richards finally moved into their castle about two and half years after building commenced and nearly 10 years in total after Tani’s initial start on the project.
The Sandcastle now houses three generations, Tim & Tani, their four children and Tani’s mother, and father – who has been completely converted to his daughter’s ‘eccentric’ ideas and loves the stepping stone pathway across the moat that leads to the entry of their downstairs abode.
In addition to the human residents The Sandcastle is also host to a number of pets and regular visitors who all get to experience this extraordinary home, thanks to an extraordinary woman who would not give up on her dream the architect and local artisans that helped her realise it.
Photography by Joel Barbitta – D-Max Photography