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Those with vertigo look away now… The architecturally designed Cliff House in Dover Heights sits atop a vertical rock face, and boasts jaw-dropping, uninterrupted views out over the Pacific Ocean.

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If this isn’t living on the edge, then we don’t know what is. Cliff House comprises a stone building in Sydney’s eastern suburbs plotted precariously on a steep rock face with a drop so high it’ll make your stomach turn.

The Pacific Ocean-facing villa enjoys unobstructed sea views from all aspects, and everything about the home’s design establishes an unparalleled connection to nature – so much so, that it feels almost at one with the cliff and the violent waves below.

Don’t look down… or do! Picture: Prue Ruscoe


“The building design addresses its dramatic location by framing the ocean view to heighten its presence,” explains Walter Barda, the Sydney-based architect behind Cliff House’s unique design.

The one-of-a-kind home was built on the foundations of a 1920s bungalow. The original structure with its sandstone base and bedrock foundation still exists in part at the streetfront, although a timber ‘box’ room clad in a nest of eucalyptus branches has been added as a feature on the second storey exterior. Walter says the artistic element is “already inhabited by nesting seabirds”.

You may wonder how any inhabitant of the home could feel safe at such a height. But Walter says the home is built to recall a fortress or citadel on a rocky bluff. “The home’s ‘defensive’, masonry construction creates a sense of protection from the elements and a resulting feeling of calmness to the experience.”

One small, rose-coloured window is the only outlook to the street frontage. Picture: Prue Ruscoe


The stunning interiors only work to complement this strategy, and appear calming and tranquil with a subdued colour palette that captures the essence of the location and frames it from every angle.

Dark polished hardwood floors create a sense of grounding and are offset by all white walls and cosy furniture in neutral hues.

“The interior is filled with light and has a purity of expression,” says Walter. “Furnishings are minimal and contemporary, adding an ethereality to the interior which in itself is a contrast to the ruggedly finished external walls.”

Art features heavily throughout, and in just about every space, you’ll find contemporary paintings, indigenous sculptures and the odd artwork by the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley.

The view is framed by the home’s openings, like an artwork. Picture: Prue Ruscoe


The home accommodates up to eight guests, and boasts five bedrooms and three bathrooms over two storeys.

The master bedroom is undoubtedly one of the home’s best assets with an open ensuite and freestanding bathtub exposed to the private ocean beyond.

Three smaller bedrooms share another bathroom upstairs while another bedroom suite sits downstairs with its own separate bathroom.

And there are plenty of shared living spaces that include a rumpus room, studio lounge room with open deck, and a stone-fenced backyard.

The seamless indoor-outdoor flow encourages time spent outdoors. Picture: Prue Ruscoe


The interior offers a welcome refuge to the often wild seas below and beyond the abode, they actually work in every way to highlight and make the most of this unparalleled exposure.

Connection to nature was of the utmost importance in the design and build process, and perhaps the best example of this approach is seen in the ‘great room’ – the main living space on the lower living level.

“This main living space is double height with a glazed roof, framing the ever-changing sweep of skies and weather patterns,” says Walter.

“The space is conceived as an internal courtyard and its cobbled floor is a reference to Mediterranean patios.”

The cobblestone flooring is symbolic of a Mediterranean courtyard and accentuates connectivity to nature. “It’s like being in a garden,” says Walter. Picture: Prue Ruscoe


Cliff House is as easy on the eyes as it is on the environment in which it sits; the architecture makes the best use of the landscape with modern technologies to reduce the abode’s carbon footprint.

The building incorporates passive solar design principles and makes the most of cross ventilation, rendering the need for artificial heating and cooling units.

Walter also says the structure is “built to last the test of time, which is a sustainability principle in itself”.

The interiors are modern and character filled. Picture: Prue Ruscoe



Cliff House in Dover Heights really is like something out of a dream. The way it’s built to challenge the landscape in which it inhabits, the impossibly calm nature of the interiors, and the unbeatable views and connection to nature make it an astonishing addition to the Sydney coastline.

“Visitors observe the house in a reverential way. Its purity of light, dramatic scale, and its dramatic framing of the ocean energy create a memorable experience of being in the property,” says Walter.

Cliff House is available to be rented out on Contemporary Hotels for your next weekend away. Whether rain, hail or shine, a stay here will recharge your batteries and have you feeling connected to nature in no time at all. 

*Cliff House is named Sydney Ocean View on Contemporary Hotels