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On the beach – new house by Lindy Leuschke

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This spacious beach house was designed with urban sensibility as a top-of-mind consideration

On the beach – new house by Lindy Leuschke

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A sense of relative isolation is a key requirement for most people planning a beach house as a place of escape. But with prime beachfront sites in short supply, it's not always easy to achieve.

Architect Lindy Leuschke says this house, in a beachfront community, needed to straddle the suburbs to the sea.

"On the west side, facing the street, the house has a suburban outlook, but to the east it faces the wide expanse of beach and ocean. The owners didn't want to be too exposed to suburbia, but they didn't want to disengage entirely. The design was also influenced by the need to create an outdoor living area that would be sheltered from the strong sea breezes that develop mid morning. This space needed to face north and west, so it also had to be screened from the street."

To resolve these challenges Leuschke positioned the house around a semi-enclosed central courtyard. From the street, the house has a closed, box-like form that belies the open, transparent nature of the architecture beyond.

"We used a simple, restrained palette of materials – wood, steel, concrete and glass," says Leuschke. "And we have left these exposed so the materials themselves form the decoration both inside and out."

The main axis through the house is defined at the front by a precast concrete blade wall, which provides a degree of separation between the public entry and a private guest suite. Bifolding cedar battened screens also provide privacy.

A long corridor, or gallery, that runs from the entry and steps up to the main living area further defines the main axis. The gallery is glazed on one side, which looks into the courtyard.

"The stairs in the gallery are widely spaced so that this space creates a very slow, deliberate transition from the public to the private end of the house," says the architect. "While it adds to the drama of the architecture, it's also a calming element that conveys a sense of casualness that's appropriate for a beach house."

A glimpse of blue ocean at the far end of the circulation spine draws the eye up to the large, open-plan living area, which opens directly onto a deck on the sand.

"The living area is elevated 1.8m above the ground to maximise the sea view," says Leuschke. "Using sand from excavation, we built up the dunes, so the owners could walk straight out onto the beach."

Large doors on the east and west sides of the living area open up to the beach deck and courtyard living area respectively. The large expanse of glass allows a view right through the house from the sheltered courtyard to the ocean beyond.

Leuschke says houses in the beach community need to be able to respond quickly to weather changes. For this reason, she added a 4m cantilevered overhang to the east elevation, and provided an adjustable louvre canopy to the alfresco dining deck in the courtyard. This area is screened by vertical-growing Maori Princess pohutukawa trees that will be kept trimmed so sunlight is not compromised.

"The trees act as a foil, breaking the visual contact with the street but you can still get a sense of the landscape beyond."

Two master suites, one up and one down from the living area, have prime positions facing the ocean.

A concrete wall inside the house, which reads as an extension of the blade wall at the entry, provides visual continuity from the front to the back. Its exposed surface, visible from the stairwell and master bathrooms, reinforces the raw, natural quality of the architecture.

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First published date: 29 October 2012

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