Sea for yourself: The blueprint to beach house design
Here comes a set of five designers to get you amped about the modern day makings of the humble Aussie beach house.
|Living out an endless summer in a beach shack by the sea has managed to remain unpretentious despite the tides of change in contemporary beach house designs.
For Brisbane architect, Shane Thompson, who was part of the team that built the Kula Beach Shacks in Coolum, a house by the sea is all about lazy living.
“They are about connecting to nature," Thompson said. "Feeling sand between the toes, water on skin, watching the sun rise and set and the clouds move."
"You should be able to walk straight onto the grass or sand in bare feet and not get precious if the dog wanders inside."
“An unpretentious feel that makes its occupants feel comfortable being lazy is universal to beach houses,” Thompson affirmed.The whole house doesn’t need to be entirely open to water views to give you that laid back, beach house style of comfort either.
“If they’re captured the right way, small peeks will provide vignettes that reinforce the coastal living feel without exposure to high winds or salt spray,” Thompson explained.
The Kula beach shacks Thompson designed have cool, shaded bedrooms with comfy beds on the second floor of their three storeys.
Living spaces above capture the views and sea breezes, while they’re also flexible enough so that large family gatherings can be both welcoming and intimate enough for two-person getaways.
“Having good separation between bedrooms and living spaces is important, as is being able to use rooms for multiple purposes,” Thompson said.
Salt resistant buildingWhen it comes to materials, Thompson knows that it’s best to use materials and furnishings that are low maintenance and resistant to being knocked around by cool ocean breezes.
“Materials need to be chosen with care because of the corrosive action of saltwater,” Thompson said.
Thompson prefers to use unpainted materials that develop a patina with use, which also gives the house a knockabout character.
He used a range of fibre cement products to build Kula on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, but cautions that some products, such as Scyon™ Linea™ weatherboard, will need to be painted.
“Hardie’s range is low cost and allows you to flexibly combine different products to create a range of visual characters while producing a cohesive result," Thompson said.
“Internally painted fibre cement can be used in bathrooms,” Thompson added. “Not only does it reduce tiling costs, it is also resistant to mould and doesn’t produce the same sticky finishes caused by salt spray.”
Function follows formCo-Director of Hobart-based 1+2 Architecture, Mike Verdouw, shares Thompson's belief that beach house design is about creating a connection with the landscape, while keeping in mind that the home will need to endure the elements to truly withstand the test of time.
“When it comes to designing a beach home, we let the site dictate terms,” Verdouw said.
“Perhaps more than any other environment, weather patterns influence the form of the coastal landscape.”
“Beach houses need to be robust, but also provide a level of sophistication that provides quiet and emptiness, allowing people to escape from the busyness of their everyday lives,” Verdouw added.
A new house designed by 1+2 Architecture in Cloudy Bay, on the southern end of Tasmania’s Bruny Island, is just one example of the multi-award winning company's commitment to these design principles.
Built on a 33-acre beachfront property, the Cloudy Bay house was designed to respond sensitively to the shifting sand dunes surrounding it, while still being a comfortable holiday home for its American owners.
“In such a dynamic, moveable landscape, the Cloudy Bay house needed to be both anchored in the site, while at the same time appearing to float,” Verdouw said.
This was achieved by cantilevering the floor half a metre over the masonry foundation, to minimise the impact on the formerly disturbed site and allow more native vegetation to regenerate.
The Cloudy Bay house was designed as two pavilions: an open-plan, lightweight, transparent living space allowing views across the dunes to the ocean beyond, with a heavier, enclosed sleeping pavilion that had smaller windows to give occupants a sense of being bunkered down against the elements while providing a good night’s sleep.
Typical of many traditional beach houses, Verdouw says its remote location meant that materials had to be carefully chosen for their accessibility, durability and low maintenance.
Timber cladding was harvested from redundant farm windbreaks and were left untreated and allowed to go silver naturally.
“They give the house a timeless appearance and of being subdued by the landscape,” Verdouw concluded.
Low cost and practical
Newcastle architect, Shane Blue, believes that beach houses should be designed for a simple and practical existence.
For the co-director of multi-award winning Bourne Blue Architecture, most beach houses are second homes that need to be low-cost, robust and easy to maintain.
The five beach houses built by his company in Seal Rocks, on the mid-north coast of NSW, are a testament to their functional design approach to beach shack building.
“They all have low floor area, provide good circulation between the various spaces and indoors and outside and have a strong link to the outdoors, the weather and the site,” Blue told Light Home.
The most recent beach shack built by Bourne Blue Architecture on the sandy Seal Rocks site was Kurreki House, where they designed a path from the beach that led to a storage area for surfboards and other gear, while providing easy access to a shower for washing off sand nearby.
Kurreki House is an elevated, pavilion-styled, lightweight building above a perimeter block wall that was specifically built to deter snakes.
The lightweight timber frame structure of the beach house is clad in compressed cement sheet with plasterboard walls inside.
Large roller doors open the interior of the house to the courtyard and allow framed sky views at night, with the wash of the beam from the nearby lighthouse passing over every few seconds.
Like other great beach houses, the colour palette is drawn from the local environment. The exterior greys and silvers reflect bleached driftwood, while the interior colours from paint company Murobond are inspired by elements spotted on bushwalks – the vibrant orange of tree fungus, and the browns, greens and blues spotted in a local rock pool.
Keep it casualBeach houses have a more casual relationship to their neighbours, the landscape and to the occupants who use them according to architect, Nigel Bertram, from Melbourne’s NMBW Architecture Studio.
His Sorrento House design recently won Victoria’s top residential architectural prize – the Harold Desbrowe-Annear Award - for its sensitive design and respect for the character of the streetscape and tea tree dominated landscape.
“The nature of beach house living means they have a more fluid sense of occupation than normal homes, so it’s important to think about different modes of occupation. Bertram said. "Sometimes they’re home to one or two people, sometimes 12.”
Bedrooms and living spaces need to be thought about flexibly, so that the space feels neither wasted nor uncomfortably crammed in.
“Lots of connections between rooms allow spaces to be opened or closed as needed,” Bertram said, “while providing multi-purpose benches and other furniture that allows people to sleep provisionally for the night adds to the relaxed feel associated with beach house lifestyle.”
Bertram explains that because coastal areas are often prone to bushfires, materials and construction techniques need to be chosen with this in mind.
A great example of this is in NMBW's Sorrento House design which uses steel construction in the understorey.Sorrento House's elevated first-floor platform uses lightweight timber framing and cladding – both constructed by a local builder, which helped to keep costs down.
“The silver top ash cladding is a non-flammable Australian hardwood that meets the bushfire code, while the raised building means that embers can’t be trapped underneath,” Bertram said.
“The pitched roof keeps the wall height down while still allowing a generous feeling of space inside, doesn’t trap embers and allows for simple water collection.”
Bertram explained that the colour scheme was also chosen to recede into the tea tree landscape.
“Some houses in the Sorrento area have been rendered in pale colours that make them highly visible, but the timber cladding on this house was chosen so that it would weather comfortably over time.”
A sense of place
Great coastal communities all feature colours, textures and materials and even artwork inspired by or drawn from the landscape according to WA-based architect Simon Youngelson.
“Their design also tends to reflect a transient, romantic style of existence, where people stay for only a short time,” Youngelson said.
They are about a relaxed holiday lifestyle and about being together with friends and family.”
“Every building – beach house or not – offers a little bit to the place in which it exists," Youngelson added.
“Together, they make the buildings very reflective of, and appropriate to, the local land conditions, and give them that idiosyncratic sense of place that sets them apart from the amorphous mass of suburbia.”