Inside Out (Australia)
Having long admired a beachside block, a Victorian family seized the opportunity to make it their own
“We wanted to build a comfortable, relaxed space for our family, where the boys could create beautiful childhood memories” BRIONY ROBERTS, HOMEOWNER
Growing up along the sunny shores of Barwon Heads on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, real-estate agent Briony Roberts would often admire this block among the gum trees. She especially loved the cottage that sat on it, for its traditional design, abundance of light and close proximity to the beach. That home was front of mind when Briony and her husband Ben entered the property market in 2016 and approached the owners. After negotiating with them to sell the house offmarket, the couple and their two young surf-loving sons, Remy and Tully, secured the ultimate coastal retreat.
A short drive from Geelong, charming Barwon Heads boasts pristine shores and rivers, a local school and the bustle of popular cafes. “We ride our bikes out for dinner and drinks,” says Briony. “When the boys aren’t surfing, they often take their fishing rods down to the jetty at the end of our street. Being in a central position means that someone is always dropping in, which we love, too. I grew up in the middle of Barwon Heads and we walked or rode everywhere – and I wanted to provide that same, simple lifestyle for our kids.”
The initial plan was to renovate the house while keeping the character of the original building. However, the discovery of asbestos and a big restoration quote put paid to that. It was a tough decision to make after two years of living there. “We loved the original beach house – it was light and bright and had a great feel to it,” says Briony. “It was always at the forefront of our design to keep as many elements of that house, which is how we came up with the brief: a new old beach house.”
Sticking close to the existing floor plan, the couple asked
Ben’s childhood friend, Jesse Plumridge of Ardor Design Build, to bring that brief to life. And so, while the home is ostensibly new, elements of its heritage are everywhere, from the original whitewashed timber floors to the 36-year-old whale weathervane on the garage roof, gifted by Briony’s parents.
The thoughtfully renovated home now has four bedrooms and ample living space within, while the generous garden includes a pool and shower tailored to the family’s outdoor lifestyle. “Even when it’s windy on the beach, our pool area is so private and protected. It’s beautiful here all year round,” says Briony. “And the outdoor shower means the boys can come straight from the surf with their sandy feet.”
One of the rebuild’s major design requests was to utilise the generous natural light, creating a trans-seasonal space that brings the outside in. This was achieved by incorporating sweeping glass doors across the entire back of the house.
Designing a home that accommodates not only seasonal changes but the transitioning needs of the growing family was also a major practical requirement. “The kids are getting more independent and come and go as they please from the surf, to get hot chips or go to their mates’ houses,” says Briony.
“We use a keypad entry code for our front door, which means we don’t have to worry about hiding keys or losing them. We have enough individual space, but also a really lovely family area where we share quality time together.”
Encouraging privacy and independence while still ensuring a comfortable and secure home is another thing the Roberts factored into the interiors. “It was important to have common study areas where Ben and I can see what the kids are doing on their screens,” says Briony. “So we built a study in the front living area, where it’s private and quiet but not hidden from view.”
As you move about the home, you get a sense of the family’s lifestyle. Soft hues and sophisticated design melds with playful beach prints. A surfboard perched proudly in one corner hints at the family’s love of the waves, while seamless integrated storage throughout keeps the remaining beach equipment under wraps.
Despite the household being predominantly male, Briony has injected her own personal touches – a decision that met with a little resistance from her husband. “Much to Ben’s disgust,” she says, laughing, “the ensuite in our bedroom is pink; I needed something feminine in our house full of boys!”
“The guest room in the attic came up so well that sometimes we wish it was our bedroom!” BRIONY