An Adaptable Retreat On The Mornington Peninsula

If a home were a transformer… The Balnarring Retreat might be it! Designed for maximum flexibility, this unassuming space can be adapted to take on many different functions and configurations while maintaining a serene and slow retreat vibe.

Director of Branch Studio Architects, Nicholas Russo, explains how this pared back design has resulted in a ‘slow’ building for slow living.

Miriam McGarry
Supports The Design Files

The Balnarring Retreat by Branch Studio Architecture, and LJ Roberts Constructions. Photo – Peter Clarke.

Don’t be deceived, this simple exterior conceals a whole world inside! Photo – Peter Clarke.

Light falls on the sleek interior, and the studio is gently cantilevered over the water. Photo – Peter Clarke.

The adaptable design means the studio is ready for all types of activity. Photo – Peter Clarke.

The serene space is ready to jump into action at any moment. Photo – Peter Clarke.

The studio is designed for a slow pace of life. Photo – Peter Clarke.

The simple design allows for adaptability, and the walls conceal all types of storage and living solutions. Photo – Peter Clarke.

A minimalism bathroom with exposed copper piping. Photo – Peter Clarke.

A skylight floods the hidden bathroom with natural light. Photo – Peter Clarke.

A refined exterior that is connected to the landscape. Photo – Peter Clarke.

Night illuminations reflected in the water. Photo – Peter Clarke.

Welcome to the Balnarring Studio Retreat. Photo – Peter Clarke.

A warm space shelter in the landscape. Photo – Peter Clarke.

Miriam McGarry
24th of September 2019

The Balnarring Retreat was deliberately designed as a ‘blank space’, within which the owners could curate a variety of different experiences. Director of Branch Studio Architects, Nicholas Russo explains his team worked to create a finely crafted retreat that could ‘switch between a nondescript shell of possibility, to a fully functioning private residence.’

The space demanded flexibility and adaptability, to ensure the design felt resolved under all conditions of activity –  from knitting studio, to home office, weekend getaway, yoga studio and Christmas Day lunch celebrations!

Nicholas describes the strategy for The Retreat as ‘deliberately lo-fi’, and embracing of a low-tech lifestyle. All of the functions of the space are concealed in the walls, with integrated components folding out to transform the space as needed. The south wall contains a fold-away bed, desk, bookshelves, and air conditioner, and the east wall hides away a long table. The west wall houses the kitchen (yes, a whole kitchen hidden in there!) workspace, and concealed entrance to the bathroom, while the glazed north wall sits above the sunken day bed (hidden by plywood boxes when not in use). 

While this might sound like an intense act of transformation, Nicholas explains ‘at the heart of it all, the underlying theme was the idea of retreat, a slow-moving space that would provide a refuge from the hectic pace of modern life.’ All this, of course, is complemented by the breathtaking location, and the home’s unique placement on the site, hovering gently over the water edge, providing a unique connection to place. 

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