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This open-hearted home trains its sights on the ocean. Both design and materials blur the line between the interior and the outlook

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Australians are blessed with a pleasant climate that beckons everyone into the great outdoors. A well thought-out, contemporary residence might allow its owners to respond to this call of the wild without ever leaving their armchairs.

The owners of this seaside house asked designer David Ponting to create a home that was private, sunny, connected, cool and relaxing. All these points are addressed in the finished residence.

"Faced with close neighbours, we elected to create a house that reserves all its views for the ocean," says Ponting. "The resulting design has windowless walls on three sides while the fourth, east-facing side opens straight onto the beach."

The beach house consists of an under-house entry and garage on the basement level, a double-height living and dining space, kitchen and reading nook on the second level, and the master suite and two guest bedrooms set in pods that overhang the atrium space. However, this is only half the story – a large courtyard complete with a 12m swimming pool extends out the back of the residence.

"Essentially, the house is not defined by its built-in, or roofed areas," says Ponting. "Everything within the high concrete walls can be viewed as open-air living space, whether covered or not."

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Ponting has gone to great lengths to merge the outdoors visually with the interiors. As with many effective house designs, the relaxed, informal effect belies the close forethought involved.

"The design invites the scenery into the home," says Ponting. "Seen from the shore, a grass hillock rises level with the front deck and one of the rocks on the beach looks as if it is inching its way into the house. In reality, the deck is cut around it."

A sense of the rocky shoreline even washes right inside the house itself – two concrete support structures, one set beside the indoor dining table, represent abstracted rocks, or rock formations.

Similarly, trees and plantings at the front of the home are continued in the central living space in the form of large indoor plants. Mature palms in the rear courtyard area complete the connection.

The designer's choice of materials – wood in particular – further accentuates the location. The bedroom pods, for example, are clad in a bleached hardwood weatherboard. These pods are reached via exposed stairs and a connecting bridge, like branches leading to tree houses. Bridge balustrades are in the same bleached hardwood, with no two palings alike, to echo the look of driftwood.

Plenty of sunshine, and a way to control it, were also on the client's wish list. Wooden slat blinds in the upper half of the double-height living space filter sunlight into the interior, giving the impression of light falling through the leaves of a tree.

In a subtropical Australian climate, cool air can be as welcome as warm sunshine. When the glass doors at both ends of the central living space are stacked back, cross ventilation and on-shore breezes provide a comfortable living environment.

A structural concrete slab extends across the upper level of the house, providing a platform for the bedroom pods to sit on. The slab has a large cutout to accommodate the double-height central living space and another over the outdoor dining area, to allow for a tent-like canopy and a fan.

"The cool concrete floor plate moderates the temperatures inside during summer, and also helped simplify what was conceptually a complex design," says Ponting. "This house takes up most of the site and building regulations meant the upper-level pods had to step back from the ground-level walls. The concrete platform made it easier to fulfil this requirement."

First published date: 29 June 2009

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Credit List

Pod cladding Hardwood weatherboards
Floor and decking Australian hardwood
Kitchen cabinetry Two-pack finish
Kitchen splashback/feature wall Mosaic tiles
Blinds Wood slats
Balustrades Custom in wood
Plantings Sunshine Coast Indoor Plant Hire
Designer David Ponting, David Ponting Architecture (Auckland)
Builder James Burrell Homes
Structure Concrete