Whale Beach House

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  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Interior

Designed By:

  • Fox Johnston

Commissioned By:

Private Client

Designed In:

Australia

This vertical village approach to a Sydney beachside home offers a blueprint for multigenerational living. Set over three main levels, the building uses shifting geometries to coax northern sun into south-facing rooms layered with joinery, furnishings and art commissioned or carefully selected for a sensory experience of space.


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  • The brief was to create a home of many modes for a professional couple, with guest accommodation for extended family stays, and an outdoor entertaining area for large gatherings. The location challenge was to resist the obvious response of a full glass facade and open plan interior to absorb the ocean views. Other challenges of the south-facing site were: how to bring the north sun into south-facing rooms, and where to create useable garden space on the steep, narrow site. The clients wanted a calming coastal-inspired interior with understated elegance and simplicity, robust materials and outdoor connections.

  • To create the broad outdoor terrace, the top two levels taper in from the eastern boundary, drawing northern light into south-facing front rooms. The plan separates guest quarters at entry level from the top-floor master suite, with the central living level - kitchen, dining and living room - opening onto the terrace. A skylit staircase connects the levels, anchored by a curved wall in kelp green with brass a balustrade. Furnishings follow a natural palette combining oak and aged brass details with richly-veined quartz and dolomite stone and warm pastel shades for the custom-designed furniture and artworks.

  • Whale Beach House combines active and passive design to mitigate its environmental impact. The concrete building shell delivers high thermal mass, helping regulate indoor air temperatures, assisted by operable windows and doors and timber screens for cross ventilation and sun filtering. Other measures include solar power, hydronic floor heating, Low-E and double glazing. To accommodate the substantial interior program, the first two levels - garage and guest rooms respectively - are excavated into the hillside, allowing the building to appear compact relative to its neighbours.

  • The interior arrangement/separation of spaces vertically over four levels is a model for multigenerational living, offering privacy to the top-floor master suite and the entry-level guest quarters, separated by the communal living platform and terrace. In addition to the stairs, an internal elevator offers all-ability access through the house. Big views over Whale Beach are dramatically framed by picture windows in the dining room and master bedroom above, while the living room faces both beach and terrace. The kitchen, master ensuite and study above are oriented towards the quieter bushland setting at the rear of the site. Watery colours are purposefully applied to offer different interior experiences. The stairwell is a soft mint green offering a calming transition, rising through the levels. Bathrooms and kitchen feature pistachio green tiling and bold Brazilian dolomite slabs, with brass-trimmed oak cabinetry. Curtains soften the space and the aged brass fixtures and fittings complement brass shelves and translucent glass wall lights. Custom-designed furniture features accents of peach and green, as does the three-metre triptych of impasto oils by designer/artist Stefania Reynolds, created for the dining room's vast western wall to counterbalance the epic ocean view.