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An Ocean-Side Sanctuary Designed To Age Gracefully

Architecture

This beachside plot in Ocean Grove represents a confluence of opposing factors. Located on a windswept sand dune overlooking the Barwon bluff on one side and the Point Lonsdale lighthouse on the other, it is exposed to both the beauty and the intensity of such a rugged beachfront spot.

Auhaus Architecture sought to design a house that held its own among these wild natural conditions, and the resulting Cliff House is as warm and inviting as it is durable and robust.

27th July, 2020

The Cliff House is split into two wings at either end of the property, separated by a landscaped courtyard and pool. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

A very ’70s sunken lounge, fitted with Togo sofas from Domo Australia. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The soft undulations throughout the interiors (like this timber island bench in the kitchen) mirror the soft geometry of the sand dunes surrounding the house. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

A dark moody palette is completed by teal tiles. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The ocean blue in the kitchen is the same shade as the carpet in the opposite lounge. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The steel circular staircase was far more challenging to construct that anyone had anticipated! Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The view of the atrium from the threshold. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Seaside views can be glimpsed at every opportunity. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The master bedroom. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

A study nook. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Curved internal walls in shades of blue resemble undulating waves! Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The guest wing on the top floor takes advantage of full ocean views. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Sublime, uninterrupted ocean views. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Looking down on the pool from the guest wing. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The pool is flanked by the wings of the house and bordered by the elevated garden, designed by Bethany Williamson. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The entrance portal is paved with flagstones. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The views begin before you’ve even entered the house! Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Looking over the pool and raised garden to the sand dunes beyond. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Harwood timber will silver over time to give the facade a grey, weathered look typical of traditional beach shacks. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

The angular geometry of the Cliff House gives to way to curves on the interior. Photo – Derek Swalwell. Styling – Bek Sheppard.

Sasha Gattermayr
Monday 27th July 2020

‘The desire was for the ocean landscape to be experienced throughout the whole house, not just those rooms facing directly onto the oceanfront.’ – Kate Fitzpatrick

The owners of this beachfront plot in Ocean Grove are a soon-to-be-retired couple who have held the enviable site for over 20 years. With the previous building falling victim to steel corrosion just 15 years after completion, the owners realised a more durable structure was required on such an exposed piece of land. Especially as it needed to accommodate three generations of their extended family once it became the pair’s permanent address!

The clients enlisted Auhaus Architecture to design an inviting home that could withstand the ferocious weather conditions typical of the beachfront site. Director of Auhaus, Kate Fitzpatrick, approached the brief with a sympathetic view of the wild and woolly locale.

‘Our goal was to create a house that felt as if it belonged to the site and didn’t overwhelm the landscape and the location,’ she explains. The desire was not to dominate or conquer the cliffside dunes the house would sit upon, but rather to contribute to the unique environment she had been engaged to interpret.

The Cliff House comprises two concrete bodies at the front and rear of the property, connected by an elevated central courtyard (designed by Bethany Williamson Landscape Architecture). The beachfront structure is split across three levels and connected by a central atrium, in the middle of which sits a statement spiral steel staircase. Ascending these stairs leads to an open plan communal living space, consisting of a sunken carpeted lounge and kitchen-dining area. The top floor accommodates a guest bedroom and bathroom, while the ground floor hosts the master suite.

A raised central courtyard separates the two wings of the house, allowing for panoramic pool views to be glimpsed from every point. The rear part of the house contains the children’s sleeping quarters, from where the ocean horizon can be viewed across the elevated internal terrain. Maximum integration into the natural surrounds was a key design concern.

With this in mind, the rustic low-maintenance material palette makes perfect sense. The concrete’s raw and refined beauty is mediated by its functionality, tipping the balance of the final structure towards minimalism rather than austerity. Hardwood timber cladding the exterior has been finished in oil, meaning it will silver off to a more rustic, weathered hue over time. Additionally, as the house matures, the rooftop garden will cascade down the concrete walls, shrouding the public-facing frontage in native foliage.

Despite the serious climatic challenges presented by this rare location, it was actually the winding steel staircase that proved the most challenging component of the build! ‘We had our local steel contractor undertake this work, but it was far more complex to fabricate than we had ever envisaged,’ says Kate. ‘While we are all proud of the end result, it is safe to say that we won’t be doing one of those again for a while!’

We can see why this sublime contemporary construction was shortlisted for this year’s Victorian Residential Architecture Awards!

See more projects by Auhaus here.

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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.