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Australian St. Andrews Beach House created by Austin Maynard Architects

By • Mar 25, 2019

On Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the St Andrews Beach is a secluded seaside area that’s popular with some families despite its lack of amenities; it’s truly a natural experience that lacks the impact of busy human life. That’s precisely what attracted Austin Maynard Architects to the area, and also why they decided to keep their lovely St. Andrews Beach House as small and minimalist as possible!

Though stunning, this little beach house, which is designed to emulate an old beach shack despite its modern take on materiality and decor, is actually only five metres in radius. This makes it look less like a retreat house and more like an object nestled into the sands. It’s a modest affair, but it still provides everything you might need in a small beach shanty on a simple getaway.

Although he is Australian, the designer of this innovative little retreat used a New Zealand word as the inspiration for his concept; there, the word “bach” describes a very modest, small, and basic shed or shack. This word resonated with him because he saw how many Aussie homes and, following suit, beach homes have become huge, sprawling structures in recent years.

One the idea of building something more primitive but still livable had entered his mind, finding a suitable and similar location was the next challenge. The particular plot where the beach house now sits was selected specifically for its lack of nearby shopping and restaurants, which he acknowledges is the direct opposite of what most people would seek. There is a smart little brewery and a corner store not far off, but not much else can be seen for miles around.

The motivation behind seeking a place that offers seemingly “nothing” was to harness the beauty in what that kind of lovely natural seclusion really does have to offer. The breathtaking coastline, towering sand dunes, and nearby parkland were much better alternatives, in his mind, to shopping strips and bustling eateries.

The St Andrews Beach House is a two storey dwelling that’s entirely circular in shape on each floor, so it looks like a cylinder from the outside. This shape is to allow guests to take advantage of the remote location’s stunning views, which are 360 degree around it and worth taking in from every single angle.

The house stands on its own, blending in quite well to the wild bushes of the immediate terrain. The team’s utmost priority during their building process was to interrupt the land as little as possible, since the sandy location is quite fragile. The house respectfully integrates itself as best it can into the local nature thanks to minimalism and smart material choices.

Part of the freeing sensation of choosing a remote location was that designers didn’t have to work with any neighbouring building’s whose aesthetic their own creation might be influenced by or respond to. The two-bedroom dwelling is free to keep things simple and pleasantly wooden, inside and outside, concentrating on useful space to the point that it doesn’t even have corridors!

In addition to be rounded and subtle, the shack is also low maintenance and quite self sustaining. It is not, however, without creature comforts, particularly since the part of its whole purpose is relaxation! Rather than being entirely primitive, the shack instead feels informal, comfortably weather worn even though it’s new (thanks to the use of reclaimed materials), and blissfully private.

On the ground floor, you’ll find the public spaces, like the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The shack is also equipped with a laundry to make longer stays comfortable. Within the tube of the main building, on the outer border, sits an open deck area that doesn’t protrude at all from the main structure, at all. Instead, it nestles into the outer surface of the house so that the verandah space feels like a blend of indoor and outdoor elements.

To get from one floor to the other, the house features a centra spiral staircase that leads right up the middle to the second floor, where you’ll find the bedroom and bathroom space. Rather than being separated into traditional bedrooms, the area is like an open concept bunk room that is still afforded privacy between adult and kids’ areas by thick curtains that can be easily drawn or pulled back.

The goal was to keep things casual and relaxed, so the spacious bedroom floor features some open, nearly empty spots that also function as extra entertainment and games room spaces when guests visit. If too many guests arrive, the sand outside is soft and lovely and the weather is warm, so the owners frequently encourage visitors to pitch a tent outside under the night’s sky.

In terms of sustainability, the house is quite efficient and low maintenance once more. It features passive solar panels that fit subtly into the shape and design, eliminating the need for fossil fuels and gas to power any part of it. Outside, a cylindrical concrete water tank collects rain water during the wet season, which is used to water the garden and flush toilets.

Photos by Derek Salwell

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