An ’80s Beach House in Australia Goes From “Blah” to Beautiful
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An ’80s Beach House in Australia Goes From “Blah” to Beautiful

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By Melissa Dalton
Figureground Architecture expands and reconfigures a defunct beach house in Sorrento, weaving together a medley of wood finishes.

There was much to lament about this 1984 beach house on the Morningside Peninsula in Victoria, starting with the dilapidated finishes and dysfunctional layout, and ending with the gray, split-face block facade that the homeowners dubbed the "toilet block." 

Enter Figureground Architecture for a fix. The firm made strategic interventions to lightly expand the home, reconfigure the interior, and knit it all together with a more refined material palette. "The challenge was to find a way to both reorganize space and a create a coherent and seamless language within the constraints of an idiosyncratic existing building structure," the architects say. 

On the exterior of the two-story beach house, much of the original brickwork was kept, and the new addition at ground level is faced in smooth, concrete blocks. The architects wrapped the upper floor in a new "timber skin" of Silvertop ash shiplap with a Grey Mist finish, then inserted V-shaped steel supports that reference historic, Australian beach houses in the area.

On the exterior of the two-story beach house, much of the original brickwork was kept, and the new addition at ground level is faced in smooth, concrete blocks. The architects wrapped the upper floor in a new "timber skin" of Silvertop ash shiplap with a Grey Mist finish, then inserted V-shaped steel supports that reference historic, Australian beach houses in the area.

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The ground floor was reorganized, and the existing carport/entry filled in, to make room for a multifunctional rumpus room for the kids, with large glass doors leading outside.

The ground floor was reorganized, and the existing carport/entry filled in, to make room for a multifunctional rumpus room for the kids, with large glass doors leading outside.

A stairwell leads up to the reconfigured living spaces and principal bedroom on the upper floor.

A stairwell leads up to the reconfigured living spaces and principal bedroom on the upper floor.

Upstairs, a curved wall clad in Silvertop ash joinery gently separates the living room from the kitchen and dining area. On the kitchen side, the wall hides the pantry and fridge.

Upstairs, a curved wall clad in Silvertop ash joinery gently separates the living room from the kitchen and dining area. On the kitchen side, the wall hides the pantry and fridge.

In the living room, the timber joinery continues and creates a sense of enclosure. The architects lined the opposite wall with a continuous bench seat to unify the open plan.

In the living room, the timber joinery continues and creates a sense of enclosure. The architects lined the opposite wall with a continuous bench seat to unify the open plan.

The bench offers seating and a freestanding fireplace. The custom dining table was designed by Figureground Architecture, and the artwork is by Caroline Walls.

The bench offers seating and a freestanding fireplace. The custom dining table was designed by Figureground Architecture, and the artwork is by Caroline Walls.

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Now, the kitchen/dining room accesses a new protected deck area.

Now, the kitchen/dining room accesses a new protected deck area.

Large picture windows were inserted to capture the views.

Large picture windows were inserted to capture the views.

"The kitchen appears as a central bench, acting as social knuckle to the interior space," says the firm.

"The kitchen appears as a central bench, acting as social knuckle to the interior space," says the firm.

An integrated terrazzo-tile counter holds an induction cooktop under a simple, cylindrical extractor hood. The cabinetry is composed of blackbutt timber.

An integrated terrazzo-tile counter holds an induction cooktop under a simple, cylindrical extractor hood. The cabinetry is composed of blackbutt timber.

The new, protected deck frames the views, and also has a built-in bench and Electrolux grill, with a mosaic tile backsplash.

The new, protected deck frames the views, and also has a built-in bench and Electrolux grill, with a mosaic tile backsplash.

The upper level bathroom is tucked inside the curved central core, indicated by the rounded wall clad in white penny tile.

The upper level bathroom is tucked inside the curved central core, indicated by the rounded wall clad in white penny tile.

Related Reading: A Revitalized Rear Addition in Melbourne Connects a Victorian With a Verdant Garden

Project Credits:

Architecture: Figureground Architecture / @figuregroundarchitecture 

Builder: P.M. Versteegen and Sons

Structural Engineer: Maurice Farrugia & Associates Pty. Ltd.