South Coast House

South Coast House NSW

The plan for this small beach house took time to solve (at our instigation, six progressive options were shown to the clients). The solution is a minimal courtyard house with a square plan and one simple plane roof. The plan revolves around the protected courtyard that provides a sunny, shielded outdoor space for year-round use, allowing visual connection east to the ocean and west to bushland. An operable louvre roof to the courtyard creates an all-weather outdoor space.

Beach houses have to work socially at a number of scales. The house has to be a comfortable fit for a small family and yet generous for everyone when friends and extended family are there. The design acknowledges the distinction between a house at the beach and a beach house.  The beach house is a more robust, less precious residential proposition.  It allows for experimentation in the design and offers freer patterns of habitation than a permanent residence: possessions are fewer; living is lighter and less schedule-driven. The pared-down simplicity may even offer little more than camping. The beach house is both casual and social, with constant comings and goings. Spaces flexibly accommodate various functions. Outside spaces become especially useful and significant. They are extensions of the interior, doubling for dining, relaxing, gathering, retreating. When the weather turns, family and friends crowd inside and live in closer quarters than ordinarily experienced in their homes.

Each elevation is about the relationship between the interior spaces and their context. This includes issues of privacy and views to the ocean and landscape, as well as the variation in weather patterns and solar loadings. Glass allows the central semi-enclosed courtyard to work year round. The courtyard, in summer, can mostly be opened and act as an extended indoor / outdoor living area. In winter it can be more enclosed by sliding the eastern glazed doors across and opening the operable roof for winter sun, or closing it all down so that you have two layers of glazing between the living areas and the outdoor terrace – effectively double glazing. The courtyard acts like a daylight-filled cube with glazing on three sides and louvered light above. The operable roof over the courtyard permits endless light variation and effects to the centre of the plan. When the roof blades are closed for rain the balance of light to the interiors is retained through a glazed skylight over the central walkway to the bedrooms. This skylight has battens across it at ceiling level to diffuse the light, or at night it can be lit like a lantern. For winter sun a highlight window on the south of the courtyard allows the low angled sun rays to penetrate right through to the dining and kitchen areas.

The materiality of this lightweight building is necessarily robust to the exterior, acknowledging the salt environment and the possibility of bushfire. The interiors have beach house simplicity and a palette of materials including timber, plywood and natural concrete.

Design: 2013
Completion: 2015
Builder: Moruya Design + Construction (Pip Smith + Mick Primmer)
Structural Engineer: Geoff Metzler
Landscape Design: Phoebe Pape
Landscaper: Lush Landscapes