A Sorrento Beach House Devoted To Its Modernist Past

Perched atop a clifftop in Sorrento, one of the most popular seaside towns along Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is a low-lying timber home with spectacular ocean views.

Originally designed in the 1960s by renowned modernist architects McGlashan Everist (John and Sunday Reed commissioned the pair to design the Heide II building, now one of the gallery’s central exhibition spaces!), the modernist building required little alteration to the original design. In fact, Cera Stribley architects felt they learned more from the existing architecture than they imparted with their modern additions!

With subtle technological updates and structural enhancements the main feature of this renovation, the Sorrento House is a lesson in restraint. When the original is this good, sometimes less really is more!

Sasha Gattermayr

Cera Stribley architects conducted a thorough but sympathetic upgrade throughout this original 1960s clifftop home. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Installing double glazed windows throughout the structure was the first port of call. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Where possible, the original timber cladding, concrete floors and joinery were left untouched. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The kitchen and wet areas were totally redesigned with technological updates. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Though renovated for functionality’s sake, the material palette of the bathrooms and kitchens were kept totally consistent with the untouched interiors throughout the rest of the house. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The new kitchen blends seamlessly with the unaltered interiors throughout the rest of the house. Photo print on wall by Derek Swalwell. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A nook in the living room designed purely to house a landline phone was removed. Such is contemporary life! Photo print on wall by Derek Swalwell. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The house is split into two wings – a communal living zone and a private sleeping quarters – and separated by a communal kitchen and dining space. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Specialist joiners were brought in to ensure the new interior woodwork married seamlessly with the original cabinetry. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The cliffside aspect means the house receives direct sunlight at different points throughout the day. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Extensive timber joinery throughout the interiors draws a parallel to the sunwashed exterior cladding. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Given how dense Sorrento now is with holidaymakers, you would have to have arrived in the 1960s to secure an outlook like this! Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The original weatherbeaten timber exterior was retained. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Sasha Gattermayr
4th of August 2020

The owners of this 1960s McGlashan Everist home in Sorrento held off renovation plans for a decade until they found the perfect architects for the job. Armed with a back catalogue of the McGlashan Everist’s mid-century designs, and a reverence for this coastal piece of mid-century architecture, Melbourne-based firm Cera Stribley were the perfect collaborators for the job.

‘The client’s brief was not to create a new home, but to amplify and respect the existing architecture,’ explains principal architect and director, Chris Stribley. ‘It was very important that we retained as much of the original as possible.’

Rather than focusing on introducing new materials, or significantly changing the home’s footprint, Chris and his team worked on updating structural systems and making slight alterations to the floor plan to suit contemporary family living. Installing hydronic heating and double glazed windows were the first port of call, while replacing the original canvas ceiling would require some more expert attention.

‘We had to work with canvas stretchers and our builders, Leone Constructions, had to custom-make tools so we could tension the canvas properly,’ explains Chris of the specialist job. The construction team received on-site tutelage on how to install the final product! Aside from its distinctive mid century-inspired aesthetic, the acoustic properties of this bespoke canvas ceiling also greatly enhance the home’s internal ambience. Alongside creating these canvas stretchers, specialist timber finishers were also engaged to create bespoke woodwork on the interior joinery and walls, in keeping with the home’s modernist style.

The existing open plan configuration was progressive for its 1960s time stamp, and required just a few tweaks to suit multi-generational family living. For example, the nook in the living room designed specifically for land-line phone calls could go! The kitchens and bathroom needed the most work to bring them firmly into the 21st century, namely updating appliances, hardware and surface finishes to ensure the longevity of these high-use spaces.

The material palette in these renovated rooms was kept totally consistent with the interiors throughout the rest of the house, allowing these functional zones to blend seamlessly with the original interiors which featured timber cladding and raw concrete floors.

Cera Stribley’s valiant utilitarianism sacrificed exciting cosmetic innovations for more subtle structural enhancements, ensuring this heritage home will continue to age gracefully, well into the future!

Does this masterful design work tickle your fancy? See more projects from Cera Stribley here.

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