This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

From 80s 'Toilet Block' To Picturesque Holiday Home

Architecture

The 1980’s are famous for many things – taffeta, shoulder pads, Madonna – but sensitive and understated architectural design is not one of the decade’s most defining trends! We chat with Matt Rawlins of Figureground Architecture about turning a 1980’s Sorrento beach house into an elegant family home.

This sensitive architectural intervention transforms the ‘toilet block’ into a coherent and contemporary home, without dramatically altering the footprint of the property.

4th October, 2018

The stunning coastal dwelling in Sorrento by Figureground Architecture. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The client brief required the renovation of a 1984 double block, two-storey holiday house on the back beach side of Sorrento. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Given the difficulty of meeting planning requirements for the site, it was decided early on to renovate rather than propose a new dwelling. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The kitchen and dining spaces wrapping around to the living room. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The house was designed to be a real retreat from the city. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Artwork by Caroline Walls. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Given the steep site, it was important to the clients to have ample outdoor areas for al fresco dining and entertaining. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Excellent outdoor that feels seamlessly integrated with the interior. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Keeping the staircase open allows light and airflow into the downstairs level. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A mezzanine bedroom. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Two sets of ‘top-to-toe’ bunkbeds to maximise kids’ play space! Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Facing east, the top of the site enjoys distant views towards Arthurs Seat, Mount Martha, and Port Philip Bay. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A bright, light bathroom. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

In contrast to the typical ‘box on the back’ renovation, this design process was defined by a series of considered interventions that carefully stitch together old and new. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Lucy Feagins
Thursday 4th October 2018

‘The design process was defined by a series of considered interventions that carefully stitch together old and new’ – Matt Rawlins.

When the owners purchased this 1980’s beach house, the family affectionately referred to the dilapidated property as the ‘toilet block!’ Eager to move away from this less-than-idyllic aesthetic, they engaged the skills of Figureground Architecture to reimagine this family home: to overhaul the circulation, improve the functionality of spaces, and increase the natural light inside.

Principle architect Matt Rawlins describes how the firm avoided a typical ‘box on the back’ addition approach, instead largely retaining the original footprint and re-organising the space. He highlights, ‘the design process was defined by a series of considered interventions that carefully stitch together old and new.’

On the ground floor, the space has been reconfigured to create an inviting entrance and flowing connection between rooms. The architects have introduced a sense of unity through joinery that is visually consistent throughout the home. In addition to these internal reconfigurations, one additional room was built – a children’s bedroom with fun ‘top and toe’ bunk beds!

The kids room is book-ended by sliding doors, which invite and encourage the children outside. This connection to the environment runs throughout the property, and the architects have deliberately selected specific views to highlight. Matt explains ‘The previously panoramic views of the horizon from the old balcony, is now a framed tableau of topography and water.’

The arresting stair case carries the family upstairs into the redesigned living areas on the first floor, including a new decked terrace. The overall aesthetic of the home is bright, but avoids a stark white gallery feeling. Matt highlights that they painted most surface areas pale grey, ‘to create a softer play of light and overall feeling of calmness.’

While this home has its roots in the 1980’s, Matt explains how the external zig-zag steel column structure is a reference to the modernism movement of the 1950’s. He describes this mid-century period as a ‘time now admired, when beach houses were designed to be of modest scale and crafted with care.’ From the curving wall in the storage room, to the rhythm of the fine battens and joinery throughout the property, the architects have truly transformed this 80’s ‘toilet block’ into a carefully crafted family retreat.

This Week

News

Swapping Fashion For Art With Holly Ryan

The popular Sydney-based jeweller explores her emerging sculpture practice in her second solo show at Jerico Contemporary.
Sally Tabart

Shopping

Morocco Meets Byron Bay In This Modern Bohemian Wonderland

A virtual visit to the rug and artisanal object treasure trove that is Tigmi Trading.
Elle Murrell

News

A Way For All Australians To Celebrate Robin Boyd's 100th

Australia Post releases a commemorative stamp acknowledging the seminal architect’s centenary.

Studio Visit

Embracing The Mistakes With Ceramicist Hana Vasak

We take a look inside the sun-drenched Northcote studio of the emerging maker behind Dáša Ceramics and chat about learning, growing, and n...
Sally Tabart
  18 hours ago

Architecture

A Brazilian Modernism-Inspired Masterpiece, In Queensland!

Architect Shaun Lockyer introduces South American flair to the typical Queenslander typology.
Miriam McGarry

News

Klaylife's Dramatic New Range

Macrame and clay beads combine for a spectacular new collection of chandeliers.

Architecture

An Architect's Own Dream Home

Sally Wilson of sw-architects shows us around her newly renovated home in Woodville, South Australia.
Miriam McGarry

TDF Collect

Announcing Our Next Exhibition, Katie Daniels' 'Unfolding Light'

Introducing a brand new artist for our first TDF Collect art exhibition of 2019! Melbourne painter Katie Daniels is one to watch.

Interiors

Karen McCartney's Dreamy, Rustic French Farmhouse

A dream European outpost for two of Australia’s most respected design aficionados! (And yes, it's available for holiday rental).

Food

Charlotte Ree's Peach And Raspberry Tray Cake

Charlotte Ree's go-to for unexpected afternoon tea guests!
Charlotte Ree
  10 hours ago

Small Business

How Can Your Business Give Back?

Steps you can take to make a positive impact through your workplace, with sage advice from the legends at Who Gives A Crap.
Fiona Killackey

News

Our Guide To The Biggest-Ever Melbourne Design Week

Australia’s creative capital transforms into a thriving design hub this March!
Sally Tabart

Interiors

This Art Deco Gem Is On The Market

Lucy Glade-Wright of Hunting for George shares her beloved Armadale apartment, now up for sale.
Lucy Feagins
  8 hours ago

News

Local Artists And Designers Feature At This Brunswick East Craft Fete

Bringing back the neighbourhood vibe at this FREE one-day community event!

Modernist Australia

This Corner-Block Mid-Century Classic Is For Sale

A modernist treasure that hasn't changed hands since the late 1960s!
Patricia Callan

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Coastal Concrete 'Tee' House

An astounding home transformation by Luigi Rosselli Architects in Sydney’s Tamarama.
Elle Murrell

Architecture

A New Lease On Life For A 1960s Holiday Home

A simple, spacious addition by MRTN Architects, that has reinvigorated a 1960s holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula.

Homes

The McCraith 'Butterfly' House

Inside Dromana's iconic mid century marvel, designed by Chancellor and Patrick architects in 1955. Tomorrow the ‘Butterfly House’ is ope...

This Week

TDF Collect

Announcing Our Next Exhibition, Katie Daniels' 'Unfolding Light'

Introducing a brand new artist for our first TDF Collect art exhibition of 2019! Melbourne painter Katie Daniels is one to watch.

Interiors

This Art Deco Gem Is On The Market

Lucy Glade-Wright of Hunting for George shares her beloved Armadale apartment, now up for sale.
Lucy Feagins
  8 hours ago

Architecture

An Architect's Own Dream Home

Sally Wilson of sw-architects shows us around her newly renovated home in Woodville, South Australia.
Miriam McGarry

News

Our Guide To The Biggest-Ever Melbourne Design Week

Australia’s creative capital transforms into a thriving design hub this March!
Sally Tabart

Architecture

A Brazilian Modernism-Inspired Masterpiece, In Queensland!

Architect Shaun Lockyer introduces South American flair to the typical Queenslander typology.
Miriam McGarry

News

Local Artists And Designers Feature At This Brunswick East Craft Fete

Bringing back the neighbourhood vibe at this FREE one-day community event!

Shopping

Morocco Meets Byron Bay In This Modern Bohemian Wonderland

A virtual visit to the rug and artisanal object treasure trove that is Tigmi Trading.
Elle Murrell

Interiors

Karen McCartney's Dreamy, Rustic French Farmhouse

A dream European outpost for two of Australia’s most respected design aficionados! (And yes, it's available for holiday rental).

Modernist Australia

This Corner-Block Mid-Century Classic Is For Sale

A modernist treasure that hasn't changed hands since the late 1960s!
Patricia Callan

Food

Charlotte Ree's Peach And Raspberry Tray Cake

Charlotte Ree's go-to for unexpected afternoon tea guests!
Charlotte Ree
  10 hours ago

News

Klaylife's Dramatic New Range

Macrame and clay beads combine for a spectacular new collection of chandeliers.

Small Business

How Can Your Business Give Back?

Steps you can take to make a positive impact through your workplace, with sage advice from the legends at Who Gives A Crap.
Fiona Killackey

News

A Way For All Australians To Celebrate Robin Boyd's 100th

Australia Post releases a commemorative stamp acknowledging the seminal architect’s centenary.

News

Swapping Fashion For Art With Holly Ryan

The popular Sydney-based jeweller explores her emerging sculpture practice in her second solo show at Jerico Contemporary.
Sally Tabart

Studio Visit

Embracing The Mistakes With Ceramicist Hana Vasak

We take a look inside the sun-drenched Northcote studio of the emerging maker behind Dáša Ceramics and chat about learning, growing, and n...
Sally Tabart
  18 hours ago

Similar Stories

Architecture

A Coastal Concrete 'Tee' House

An astounding home transformation by Luigi Rosselli Architects in Sydney’s Tamarama.
Elle Murrell

Architecture

A New Lease On Life For A 1960s Holiday Home

MRTN Architects reinvigorate a 1960s holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula.

Homes

The McCraith 'Butterfly' House

Inside Dromana's iconic mid century marvel, designed by Chancellor and Patrick architects in 1955. Tomorrow the ‘Butterfly House’ is ope...