The Timeless Update Of A 1950s Portsea Beach House

When it comes to renovating an existing home, sometimes the best and most elegant design solutions are found in restraint. This is especially true when it comes to midcentury homes.

Interior design firm Pipkorn Kilpatrick went to great pains to respect the vernacular and principles of modernist design when it came to updating their client’s Portsea home, which was originally designed by Robin Boyd for Consolidated Home Industries (CHI) in 1956.

The result is a fresh new space with better flow to suit the needs of modern life, ensuring its legacy is maintained and celebrated for many years to come.

Sally Tabart

Interior design firm Pipkorn Kilpatrick were engaged to enhance the flow of this 1950s beach house in Portsea. Photo – Chris McConville

Better connection between the kitchen and dining areas was established in the renovation. Photo – Chris McConville

The original fireplace and patinaed copper flu are a stand-out feature definitely of this home! Photo – Chris McConville

This home was originally designed by architect Robin Boyd for Consolidated Homes Industries in 1956. Artwork ‘Just Lovely’ by Emily Persson. Photo – Chris McConville

Pipkorn Kilpatrick introduced banquette seating to create a sense of intimacy. Artwork ‘Just Lovely’ by Emily Persson. Photo – Chris McConville

Original cabinetry hardware was reinstated on the bar area joinery by Kurv Living. Photo – Chris McConville

The kitchen was opened up to the dining area to improve entertaining functionality but zoning characteristic of Boyd and his modernist value. Photo – Chris McConville

Soft Belceppo terrazzo was used in the kitchen, and suspended shelving adds extra storage without closing off the space. Artwork ‘Leaving for Country’ by Greg Wood. Photo – Chris McConville

This home is characterised by its connection to the outdoors. Photo – Chris McConville

The new laundry. Photo – Chris McConville

Storage has been added to improve the functionality of the home for the family of four. Photo – Chris McConville

An outdoor fireplace and barbecue area featuring Eco Outdoor Endicott crazy pavers better activates the outdoor spaces. Landscape design by The Good Garden Co. Photo – Chris McConville

A total dream! Eco Outdoor Endicott crazy pavers line the outdoor barbecue area. Photo – Chris McConville

The new update will ensure this home remains timeless. Photo – Chris McConville

Sally Tabart
24th of September 2021

Initially it was the block size and location that drew Pipkorn Kilpatrick’s clients, a family of four, to this 1950s home in Portsea when they first bought it back in 2013. They knew the home felt special, but it wasn’t until later they realised it was designed by one of Australia’s most iconic architects.

‘They said other people who knew the block was available couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just bowl the house and start again or replace it with two houses and sell off. Thank goodness it fell into the right hands!’ says interior designer Anna Skermer, one half of the Melbourne-based design duo Pipkorn Kilpatrick.

Built in 1956, the home was originally a Consolidated Home Industries (CHI) build – a service established in 1955 that allowed people to purchase an architect-designed plan and have the home built on their land. A friend of the family lived nearby in a CHI home designed by Robin Boyd, and after a little digging the family figured out that their beach house was also a Boyd design. The clients quickly became enamoured with his style and design legacy – an ethos shared by Anna and her design partner Jane Kilpatrick.

Although the house was already in pretty good nick, the kitchen (which had been renovated by the previous owners with hallmark early 00s red cabinetry!) required updating, and to have a grater connection with the dining areas. The laundry and storage areas were also cramped and needed a bit of a facelift to bring them in line with the functionality and style of the rest of the home.

‘Our vision was to embrace the humanity of the house and further enhance the way of living it encouraged, improving function and connectivity in a way that complemented the existing house without (we hope!) destroying any Boyd design intent’, says Anna. ‘The fact that the kitchen wasn’t original made revisiting the design a little less daunting.’

By pushing the footprint out only 700mm to the South West and 1000mm to the South East, a change barely visible from the front facade, Pipkorn Kilpatrick were able to make the kitchen functional with space, storage and finishes. They used soft Belceppo terrazzo in the kitchen and bar areas, and the continuation of Boyd’s much-loved lining board in the new areas ensured the fresh palette of Dulux Natural White walls and original Victorian Ash flooring retained plenty of personality, enhancing the beach shack charm.

The kitchen was opened up to the dining area to improve entertaining functionality, but the interior designers maintained zoning characteristic of Boyd and his modernist values. Character and intimacy is retained through the introduction of suspended shelving and banquette seating, and a reconstruction of the 3/4 partitioning separating the kitchen and lounge now houses a bar.

The addition of double-glazed sliding doors (replacing a single door and windows) in the living area further enhances the home’s relationship with its environment, while the addition of an outdoor fireplace and barbecue area featuring Eco Outdoor Endicott crazy paving to the North make the connection with the outdoor areas a total dream.

‘We weren’t aiming for glamour or novelty, but for the original icon to survive into the future through careful planning and thought for a timeless result’, says Anna of their goals for the Portsea beach house. Mission accomplished!

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