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Peaceful retreat - Simple beach house renovation by Connor & Solomon Architects

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Building or renovating a house at the beach can provide a golden opportunity to venture away from some of the more conventional design principles

Peaceful retreat - Simple beach house renovation by Connor & Solomon Architects Discover this article's resources 0


Building or renovating a house at the beach can provide a golden opportunity to venture away from some of the more conventional design principles. On vacation, two or more families often stay together, the days take on a different, more casual, structure and, with any luck, the weather is better.

This seaside property was made up of a small cottage and an adjacent studio that had been operated as a gallery and was open to the public. The new owners, however, did not want to run the gallery and consulted architect Paul Connor of Connor & Solomon Architects on the best way to turn it into a vacation home for their family and friends.

In their existing state, the two buildings didn't function as one home, but as the original architecture was good, the owners and Connor felt they were worth retaining and renovating. Both buildings had a natural, almost traditional beachside aesthetic, and had been built from simple, functional materials.

"We decided to start by building an entry pavilion across the front of the property. This provides privacy from the street and nearby shops and shields the inner sanctuary from view," says Connor.

The front gate, which creates a formal entry to the house and defines it from the street, opens up onto a covered veranda linking the original gallery and cottage.

"A high roof above the gate signifies that this is the entrance to the property. We wanted the entry to feel not so much as if you are coming into a house, but to make it about connecting internal and outdoor areas," says the architect.

Extending from the covered veranda is an open terrace that forms a large outdoor courtyard and reinforces the connection between the two buildings.

Western red cedar boards were used for the siding on the exterior of the original buildings. This finish was repeated on the new entrance pavilion, the existing siding was stripped back, and the whole complex was painted in a dark shade with contrasting white joinery.

"We felt that the dark-painted siding gave the buildings a light, casual, vacation feel, which we wanted to retain," says the architect.

One issue with the original buildings was their slightly top-heavy appearance.

"Deep decks with wide, thick boards and oversized veranda posts created more bulk at the base and improved the proportions," say the owners.

The veranda provides the central spine for the compound and leads to the various indoor spaces. Within the larger pavilion, the main living areas – the kitchen, dining and living space, plus two bedrooms – are downstairs, and the master bedroom and ensuite are on the mezzanine level. In the second pavilion, a living area and laundry are at ground level, with two bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper floor.

Inside, the layout is largely unaltered, although a very small kitchen was substantially enlarged, with additional storage, counter space and cooking and preparation areas making it more functional for several people to use.

The owners also pulled out a small fireplace and replaced it with a 3ft 9in-wide model.

"Because the space has a double-height, raked ceiling, we felt that everything from the fireplace to furnishings had to be on a large scale to ensure the space still feels intimate and comfortable to be in," they say.

This was achieved with extra-large sofas and a dining table, custom made from recycled wood, that can seat eight people easily.

Throughout, limewashed American oak floorboards, and walls and ceilings in the same shade of white as the exterior joinery, give the spaces a fresh feel, perfect for summer vacation fun and relaxation.


First published date: 11 June 2012

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Credit List

Architect Paul Connor, Dominique Brammah, Anthony Solomon, Connor & Solomon Architects
Structural engineer Angelo D'Ambrosio
Builder Ian Westlake
Interior design Owners and builder
Kitchen design Owners
Siding Western red cedar
Paint Porter's Paints
Flooring American oak
Dining table Custom made by Mark Tuckey
Television Samsung
Integrated sound system JBL Control 25's
Lounge chairs Coco Republic
Dining chairs Tolix; Cotswold
Interior fireplace Jetmaster
Light fittings Koskela, Terrace Outdoors
Kitchen manufacturer AGN Joinery
Countertops Quartz
Bar stools Tolix
Bathroom vanity, bath surround Tasmanian oak
Outdoor furniture Eco Outdoor
Outdoor firepit Robert Plumb
Deck Spotted gum hardwood
Garden/landscaping Ambient Landscapes