An Out Of The Ordinary Beach House in Phillip Island

Casa X by Branch Studio Architects is unlike any other home in Phillip Island, and that’s just the way architect Brad Wray likes it.

Rather than adopting the local housing vernacular, the studio’s co-founder and creative director set out to test the possibilities of a residential space, by experimenting with spatial planning.

It’s a large house, (being located on what was previously two vacant blocks) but Casa X is an example of how to meaningfully and sensitively respond to site and context. 

Amelia Barnes

Casa X by Branch Studio Architects is a U-shaped home surrounding a courtyard. Photo – Peter Clarke

A combination of natural Australian blackbutt and Tasmanian oak timbers in the interiors. Photo – Peter Clark

A study sits before the living domain. Photo – Peter Clarke

The roofline of the home changes throughout to suit the intimacy of the space. Photo – Peter Clarke

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the hallway. Photo – Peter Clarke

The interiors draw on the client’s love of Moroccan architecture that plays with light and dark qualities. Photo – Peter Clarke

Raw grey concrete floors and walls contrast with a singular handmade tile band in the bathroom. Photo – Peter Clarke

The vertically-orientated blackbutt timber lining boards in the courtyard enhance the relationship of the space to a nearby gum tree. Photo – Peter Clarke

The primary builder of Casa X was Anthony Johns; early concrete ground works by Jarrod Henzen; structural engineering by OPS Engineers; building surveyor was Michel Group Building Surveyors; landscape consultant was Orchard Design; arborist consultant was Jardine Johnstone. Photo – Peter Clarke

 A dune scape at the property’s north boundary separates it from the beach. Photo – Peter Clarke

Amelia Barnes
10th of February 2020

Architect Brad Wray’s vision for this Phillip Island house was a respectful design, celebrating the surrounding landscape. The co-founder and creative director of Branch Studio Architects explains, ‘The area is a fairly eclectic mix of strange styles. There are some nice ‘60s coastal fibre-cement bungalows, but the majority of houses are brick veneer… so I couldn’t have cared less about the design of the house fitting in with the surrounding houses. What I really wanted was the house to be a good example of how to meaningfully and sensitively respond to site and context, even at a larger scale.’

Working with a huge amalgamated block (over 1700 square metres), Brad set out to test the possibilities of what a residential space looks like, by designing various ‘moments’ throughout. This desire was partially driven by the client’s love of Moroccan architecture that plays with light and dark qualities. ‘I like the fact the house in moments has the qualities of a cathedral-like space, then in other moments has the openness of a public art gallery, then, just a couple of metres away, a low-compressed, residual space like a nook in a library where one can curl up and read a book’ Brad says. The integration of a varied roofline with pop-up skylights throughout helps achieve this effect.

The floorplan of the home was devised as three separate wings – one housing the main bedroom, one with the guest wing, and the other containing the main living areas. These wings open to a central courtyard, with a deck and pool facing sand dunes on the property’s north boundary. 

A combination of Australian spotted gum with red and black Colorbond cladding on the exterior references black volcanic granite rocks near the home, which build up with a reddish, coarse sediment over time. ‘We were able to achieve a really nice warm silvery brown-black which still exposes a great deal of the timbers natural grain. It has a really nice organic quality,’ Brad says. ‘The house has been designed to be almost silhouetted in the landscape. It will age gracefully, and grey more and more into the landscape with time.’

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