Sustainable Homes

A Relaxed Torquay Beach House Decked Out In Timber

When architects Michelle Findlay and Joel Farnan set out to create their own family home in Torquay, Victoria, they had a clear vision for a modern, elevated beach house.

But, their Beach House project started as a site with nothing but a ‘run-down asbestos shack that had seen better days’!

The couple, who founded Farnan Findlay Architects, have managed to create a calming home comprising natural materials and sustainable elements, designed to respond to its coastal environment.

Christina Karras

Inside the Beach Road House project! Photo – Ed Sloane

‘We love the oversized cedar round window in the living room that frames a 150-year-old Moonah tree in our neighbours’ yard and the rising yellow moon. We decided early on that this was an element worth framing – we hope they don’t cut the tree down!’ Michelle says. Photo – Ed Sloane

A clever peg board in the all-timber kitchen! Photo – Ed Sloane

‘It’s a wonderful house to live in, imbuing a sense of calm,’ Michelle says. Photo – Ed Sloane

A Cheminees Phillipe French Open fireplace divides the living & dining. Photo – Ed Sloane

Large windows ensure natural light floods the home. Photo – Ed Sloane

Handmade terracotta breezeblocks from Mutina. The feature helps define the entry, providing glimpses beyond, but nothing more. Photo – Ed Sloane

A limited but warm palette of materials assist in creating the home’s relaxed vibe. Photo – Ed Sloane

A quiet corner with a lush outlook. Photo – Ed Sloane

Rosaio Terrazzo and Inax plain 50 tiles from Arte Domus. Photo – Ed Sloane

Garden spaces complement the build. Photo – Ed Sloane

An outdoor shower for a rise after the beach! Photo – Ed Sloane

Timber decking completes the property. Photo – Ed Sloane

‘The cladding is supplied green and has a chunky overlapping board & batten detail and dries in-situ once installed. Treated with a Danish oil ‘Woca’ gives it an almost immediate softness and greyed feel,’ Michelle explains. Photo – Ed Sloane

The unassuming facade. Photo – Ed Sloane

Christina Karras
14th of April 2022

Beach Road House is Farnan Findlay Architects’ take on a quintessential coastal home, designed for the architects’ own family. Michelle Findlay and Joel Farnan knew they wanted to live in the old part of the Torquay township, in order to be close to their family business, Zeally Bay Sourdough, and of course, the beach.

The couple found their ideal block, with a ‘run-down asbestos shack that had seen better days’ occupying the prime location just five minutes from the beach, and set about building their dream home for themselves, their two daughters, Mietta and Evie, and dog, Sonny.

‘There was not a plumb surface in sight,’ Michelle says.

Having worked on several residential houses before across Sydney and Victoria’s coastlines, Michelle and Joel were cautious of creating a ‘suburban house by the sea’ that felt out of place.

Timber is undeniably the hero of the home’s relaxed design; there’s silver top ash timber decking, masterful all-timber joinery in the kitchen, and the exterior’s board and batten cladding. The bathrooms also comprise timeless materials, using terrazzo and simple white Japanese tiles for a modern look.

‘Designed to weather over time, timber is the perfect fit for a coastal environment,’ Michelle explains.

‘The vision was to create a family home with character and warmth. It’s a small footprint that works hard and has to accommodate and entertain friends and family from Sydney, Melbourne or Bendigo.’

They drew on concepts seen in simple Scandinavian cottages, and the qualities of Japanese craftsmanship. Meanwhile, Michelle highlights the entry skylight that was ‘inspired by a James Turrell courtyard light sculpture we had seen in Naoshima, Japan a few years ago’.

Sustainable elements such as the build’s 6.4kw solar array, a Tesla battery with a car charger and LED lighting all ensure the home uses less power than the average abode.

Michelle says the family was also ‘especially conscious to make an effort for the street’ – ‘which to us means ensuring that our frontage and street presentation is aesthetically generous.’

The resulting design seems to be hit a with neighbours and strangers, who often stop to offer compliments on the home’s look.

See more of Farnan Findlay Architects work here.

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