Take the weather with you

A con­tem­po­rary beach house built to stand the test of time aims for trans­parency, writes Robyn Wil­lis

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - NEW BUILD - Pic­tures Si­mon Wood

Ar­chi­tects of­ten com­pare de­sign­ing houses like putting to­gether a jigsaw puz­zle. Mak­ing all the pieces fit to­gether — with­out bang­ing any­thing into place — to cre­ate a seam­less re­sult takes thought and care­ful plan­ning.

But when ar­chi­tect Richard Cole was called to de­sign a house for this site on the head­land in Mona Vale, the puz­zle was all too fa­mil­iar.

“We do seem to spe­cialise in sites like these,” he says.

While the slop­ing site over­looks the ocean, the best views are to the south, ex­pos­ing the house to southerly winds. Draw­ing light into the house would also be a chal­lenge, while any build­ing materials cho­sen would need to be able to with­stand strong winds and salt spray.

“The chal­lenge was to cap­ture the views and the north­ern sun and keep it open but be able to shut it down when the weather is not too favourable,” he says.

Richard was keen to cre­ate a con­tem­po­rary beach house to re­place the small old cot­tage on the site that would look com­fort­able in its land­scape rather than mak­ing a big ar­chi­tec­tural state­ment.

He de­signed a four-bed­room home with two lev­els at the street front and two over­look­ing the beach that slot­ted to­gether like pieces in a game of Jenga.

“The key strat­egy was a split level plan that stepped down the site so you en­ter and go up half a level to the living and then down half a level to the pool and rum­pus and the back­yard,” he says.

The par­ents en­joy a separate suite on the top floor over­look­ing the street and an­other beach beyond, while ad­di­tional be­d­rooms are on the lower floors. Richard used the cen­tral stair­well to pull light into each floor.

“The open stair pushes the light down and gives the house trans­parency so you can see all the way through,” he says.

With the front of the house fac­ing north to the street, he in­serted high­light win­dows to get the light with­out com­pro­mis­ing pri­vacy.

The ex­tended roofline sits lightly on top like an um­brella on the sand.

Light and ex­po­sure to the weather con­di­tions on the south­ern side of the house have been care­fully man­aged.

“Hav­ing views to the south is al­ways chal­leng­ing but we have a big bank of doors that open right up,” Richard says. “They’re all dou­ble glazed so they have good in­su­la­tion.”

Low main­te­nance, long life

A house like this was al­ways go­ing to de­mand ro­bust materials and qual­ity build­ing prac­tices. Lo­cal builder JJ Build­ing took on the job of con­struct­ing this com­plex build.

“It’s get­ting the right materials for the lo­ca­tion and putting it to­gether so that it will last,” Richard says. “It comes down to the de­tails and the choice of materials.

“You’re not build­ing de­tails that are go­ing to fail over time — there’s no cut­ting cor­ners on some­thing like this.”

Materials in­cluded sand­stone, fi­bre ce­ment sheet­ing, steel and glass, along with white ma­hogany, a dense Aus­tralian hard­wood.

While the doors and win­dows will be oiled rou­tinely, the rest of the tim­ber is ex­pected to weather to a sil­very grey. The gar­den, de­signed by Out­door Es­tab­lish­ments, puts the fi­nal puz­zle piece into place.

Ca­sual break­fast bar din­ing per­fectly suits this beach house.

Frangi­pani trees frame the street en­trance to the house.

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