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

An Adaptable Retreat On The Mornington Peninsula

Architecture

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.

24th September, 2019

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
Tuesday 24th September 2019

‘The underlying theme was the idea of retreat… a refuge from the hectic pace of modern life.’ – Nicholas Russo. 

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. 

This Week

02:27

Travel

A Perfect Day in Daylesford & The Macedon Ranges, With Paul Bangay

Lucy joins legendary landscape designer Paul Bangay for a dreamy day trip in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, capturing the best that the

On The Market

A Rammed Earth Masterpiece With Sweeping Mountain Views

Rarely are the stunning architectural homes we feature for sale... but this jaw-dropping Peter Stutchbury Architecture-designed home is!
Marcus Lloyd-Jones

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards this year!

Interiors

11 Mirrors That Are Having A Moment!

Lauren Li's edit of her favourite mirrors out there right now, to take your space to the next level!
Lauren Li

Homes

A Remarkable Family Home Transformation

Maddie and Mike Witter transformed a mould-ridden, dilapidated house into a bright and breezy family home for six!

Architecture

A New Zealand Villa Built For Hosting

Architecture firm Maud creates a home for a family of hospitality professionals, built around a generous kitchen, outdoor room + pétanque g...

Studio Visit

Painting Gentle, Hopeful Utopias With Louise Tate

The Mullumbimby-born, Melbourne-raised artist imagines quiet balanced worlds as a refuge from our present moment.
Sasha Gattermayr
  8 hours ago

Food

Julia's Strawberry Crumble Cake

A golden, nutty butter cake with crunchy oat topping and a layer of spiced strawberry, from food columnist Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

News

Delicious New Bed Linen From A Local Fave

Melbourne-based bed linen stars, The Sheet Society, launches a moody new winter range ripe for mixing + matching.
Sponsored

Homes

An 1870s Church Turned Stylist’s Family Home!

Stylist at Read&Hall Sarah Fairhead Hall and husband Adam converted an 1870s church in Willunga, South Australia into their family home!

News

The Very Best In First Nations Fashion Design!

The National Indigenous Fashion Awards were held on Larrakia Country (Darwin), recognising First Nations artists + designers across six cate...

Architecture

A Minimalist Home Where The Landscape Takes Centre Stage

This Mount Mellum, Queensland home by Sparks Architects is all about its incredible views, taking in the ocean and D'Aguilar Range!

Shopping

The Latest Collection From North Is A Total Dream

Created in collaboration with artists from Marrawuddi Arts and Culture and Injalak Arts, 'Stone Country Collection' is a celebration of the
Sally Tabart
  23 hours ago

Architecture

A 90m² Inner-Suburban Block Turned Multipurpose Family Home!

MRTN Architects have designed family home, office, and granny flat on a mere 90m² Brunswick East block!

Interiors

A Sydney-Meets-Melbourne Family Terrace

Full of Grace Interiors bring Melbourne design influences to this breezy Sydney home.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

A Handcrafted Cabin In Gippsland

Interior designer Andrea Moore’s contemporary rural country cabin, nestled in South Gippsland, Victoria.

Architecture

A Japanese-Inspired Hideaway In Idyllic Tassie Bushland

The 28-square-metre cabin nestled on Bruny Island, that took out three major awards at the 2018 Tasmanian Architecture Awards.

Architecture

An A-Frame On The Top Of The World

A tiny, off-the-grid cabin in rural New South Wales with breathtaking views across the Murrumbidgee River flats and Kimo valley.

This Week

News

Delicious New Bed Linen From A Local Fave

Melbourne-based bed linen stars, The Sheet Society, launches a moody new winter range ripe for mixing + matching.
Sponsored

Shopping

The Latest Collection From North Is A Total Dream

Created in collaboration with artists from Marrawuddi Arts and Culture and Injalak Arts, 'Stone Country Collection' is a celebration of the
Sally Tabart
  23 hours ago

News

The Very Best In First Nations Fashion Design!

The National Indigenous Fashion Awards were held on Larrakia Country (Darwin), recognising First Nations artists + designers across six cate...

Food

Julia's Strawberry Crumble Cake

A golden, nutty butter cake with crunchy oat topping and a layer of spiced strawberry, from food columnist Julia Busuttil Nishimura.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Interiors

11 Mirrors That Are Having A Moment!

Lauren Li's edit of her favourite mirrors out there right now, to take your space to the next level!
Lauren Li

On The Market

A Rammed Earth Masterpiece With Sweeping Mountain Views

Rarely are the stunning architectural homes we feature for sale... but this jaw-dropping Peter Stutchbury Architecture-designed home is!
Marcus Lloyd-Jones

Homes

An 1870s Church Turned Stylist’s Family Home!

Stylist at Read&Hall Sarah Fairhead Hall and husband Adam converted an 1870s church in Willunga, South Australia into their family home!

Studio Visit

Painting Gentle, Hopeful Utopias With Louise Tate

The Mullumbimby-born, Melbourne-raised artist imagines quiet balanced worlds as a refuge from our present moment.
Sasha Gattermayr
  8 hours ago

TDF Design Awards

The Most Fabulous New Furniture Designs In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021

There is no shortage of innovation and inspiration from the Furniture Design finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards this year!

Architecture

A 90m² Inner-Suburban Block Turned Multipurpose Family Home!

MRTN Architects have designed family home, office, and granny flat on a mere 90m² Brunswick East block!
02:27

Travel

A Perfect Day in Daylesford & The Macedon Ranges, With Paul Bangay

Lucy joins legendary landscape designer Paul Bangay for a dreamy day trip in Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, capturing the best that the

Interiors

A Sydney-Meets-Melbourne Family Terrace

Full of Grace Interiors bring Melbourne design influences to this breezy Sydney home.

Homes

A Remarkable Family Home Transformation

Maddie and Mike Witter transformed a mould-ridden, dilapidated house into a bright and breezy family home for six!

Architecture

A New Zealand Villa Built For Hosting

Architecture firm Maud creates a home for a family of hospitality professionals, built around a generous kitchen, outdoor room + pétanque g...

Architecture

A Minimalist Home Where The Landscape Takes Centre Stage

This Mount Mellum, Queensland home by Sparks Architects is all about its incredible views, taking in the ocean and D'Aguilar Range!

Similar Stories

Homes

A Handcrafted Cabin In Gippsland

Interior designer Andrea Moore’s contemporary country cabin.

Architecture

A Japanese-Inspired Hideaway In Idyllic Tassie Bushland

A simple cabin with a tiny footprint, nestled in magnificent Bruny Island.

Architecture

An A-Frame On The Top Of The World

A tiny, off-the-grid cabin in rural New South Wales with breathtaking views across the Murrumbidgee River flats and Kimo valley.

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.