Built with a weather eye on the fierce elements that assail it, this absolute oceanfront home is an outstanding achievement.
Sighting dolphins playing in the sea as they work from home is the unexpected reward for these owners who tackled a monumental build on a challenging site. Finding a reputable, experienced architect and builder who would understand and handle the project from conception to completion was key to the success of their Mornington Peninsula holiday home. Glenvill Homes met the brief with gusto, drawing on their experience building many properties in the area – and one team member’s intimate knowledge of the environment as a lifelong surfer – to help proof the house against the formidable elements. “The best houses are ones that test the team,” says Glenvill’s design manager and architect Anthony Gosling, who worked with architect Travis Walton on the interior design and landscape architect Jack Merlo on the grounds.
What was the brief? Anthony: To provide a single-storey holiday home of strength that took advantage of the sensational views both out to sea and down the beach. The brief modified as options were explored and the design revised in the search for the optimum solution. What were the challenges of the site and how did you resolve them? Anthony: While the site is one of the most outstanding on the Peninsula, its exposed nature presented challenges. The lack of depth meant that the proximity to the water and the rock sea wall of the house was crucial. The design of the rock seawall for the wave energy of a 100-year storm event also reinforced the feeling that the house needed to exhibit a real robustness in planning and construction.
The ever-evolving brief was sometimes challenging and time-consuming, but we always knew that the result would be worth it. Owner: The complexities of the elements meant that everything had to be strengthened. The building supervisor was a lifelong surfer who understood the winds and nature of the environment and his knowledge was invaluable in dealing with the challenge of the elements.
The rock wall formation at the front also played a big role in the design process as it had to be built from scratch to establish height to the property.
Are there any considerations when designing a home in a coastal setting? Anthony: The house design is all about the site which faces south, so you have this huge outlook and massive amount of glazing that is not so great in terms of energy rating. The high ceilings and extensive floor-to-ceiling glazing facing the sea and the beach give plenty of light and, with the rammed earth walls, play a big part in the environmental performance of the house.
What were some of the ideas and influences that shaped your design? Anthony: As well as maximising the views, the design is largely shaped and influenced by the unique landscape and the strength needed to withstand the harsh conditions of being so close to the sea. How would you describe the completed home and what are some of your favourite elements? Anthony: The owner says a favourite feature would have to be his study, especially after the recent lockdown where he has been working from home. He couldn’t conceive of a more perfect location. “Looking straight ahead I have the best view and enjoy watching the dolphins come in to play right in my own front yard,” he says. For me, the rammed earth wall is a standout feature that serves as a spine and gives the home enormous strength. It was the first thing to go up after the concrete pour and at 400mm thick it gives a feeling of stability and protection against the weather. It was also the highest risk in terms of getting it right. Most rammed earth walls are cream and natural – we wanted one that was grey without defined lines so it looked like concrete. The floor-to-ceiling windows create a glass box, allowing you to take in 180-degree views of the entire coastline, and even the bathroom has a stunning view.
Also contributing significantly to the building’s success is the higher 3.6-metre ceiling through the living area and entry hall, along with the full-height, wall-to-wall glazing that wraps the house on two sides. The pool and landscape design by Jack Merlo is outstanding and contributes in a big way to the project. What informed the selection of furniture, art, fittings and finishes? Travis: From an interiors perspective the main focus of the home needed to be the incredible waterline view. With such extensive glazing in height and width, the interior spaces feel as if you are floating above this endless mass of water. So to enhance this aspect our design response was to create a dark and seductive series of spaces rather than a bright and reflective palette with high glare. The flooring comprises dark charcoal terrazzo in contrast to the light-grey rammed earth wall that offers more texture than your typical off-form concrete. In the kitchen, the black oak joinery and a palette of contrasting natural stone complement the blue-green hues of the nearby seascape. In the master bedroom suite, there is a restrained minimalist palette of muted greys and black Jurassic marble which has rippled veins that mimic the patterns of the ocean.
Were the owners happy with the execution? Anthony: The owners knew the build wouldn’t be without its challenges but they are ecstatic with the result and love spending as much time there as they can. They call the property an entertainers’ dream with the open-plan living area that spans out onto a beautiful outdoor entertaining area where they can light the woodfired pizza oven and soak up the killer sunsets.