Gone are the days when a new beach house was designed with little thought to the immediate surroundings. Such houses, which looked as though they had been transplanted straight from the more wealthy suburbs, often seemed to have scant architectural relevance. Today, designers and their clients are much more likely to address the location with a design that not only references what has gone before, but also acknowledges the laid-back, summer-holiday lifestyle on the doorstep. This new beachfront house, designed by David Ponting of the recently formed partnership Ponting Fitzgerald, has an especially close relationship with the immediate neighbourhood – the design reinterprets three key architectural forms found in the small seaside community. Ponting says incorporating elements of a '60s-inspired, cedar-clad bach, a longrun steel boathouse and blockwork motel units was also a way to position the house on the tight, trapezoid-shaped site.
"The awkward shape of the building site meant we were never going to be able to provide a typical large house with the four bedrooms desired by the owners. We had to work with the site and council restrictions, and effectively force the building to replicate the shape of the site." Consequently, the ground floor is comprised of three separate accommodation units, or cabins, which each feature four walls of solid plaster over concrete block – a typical motel construction. "Each cabin is like a self-contained unit with its own entry," says Ponting. "And, as with a holiday park, there are separate timber decks for each unit, and walkways between them. Although these paths are technically within the house, glazed end walls and the timber flooring enhance the sense of a seaside promenade." The main living area and master suite on the first floor are contained within a large, cantilevered cedar box that mimics the trapezoid shape of the site. "This box element was inspired by the traditional baches along the coast, albeit on a larger scale," says the designer. "It was designed to appear as though it has been lightly placed on top of the cabins, on a slightly skewed angle, following the lines of the boundary." Three partially enclosed decks are contained within this volume. The larger front deck features adjustable overhead louvres that follow the trapezoidal shape of the house."It looks as though the decks have been carved out of the cedar box, which is very different to the typical protruding balconies of other houses," says Ponting. "These recessed elements express a visual solidity – they give the house a solid three-dimensional feel enhancing its sense of permanence and security. The composition is also a visual link to the giant macrocarpa tree on the beachfront."
The cedar box cantilevers over a third volume to the left of the house, which was inspired by traditional boatsheds. "This longrun steel boatshed is a double-length garage that can house a car and boat trailer," says the architect. "It is an olive-green colour, which makes the box above appear to pop out, while the garage itself visually recedes – from the side it is scarcely visible." Entry to the house is through a large, pivot door and a timber walkway leading to the stairs. A cedar-lined soffit reinforces the notion of the top floor being a self-contained wood box. It's a look that continues inside the living area, where the walls feature rough-sawn plywood. The textural surfaces enhance the visual link with the natural landscape, and the suggestion that the inside is an extension of the outside. Timber flooring the colour of bleached driftwood provides another reference to the beachfront setting.
"The interior was designed to put the focus firmly on the ocean view," says Ponting. "The dark-brown colour, for example, makes the walls appear to recede so the eye goes straight out to the view. It is almost as though you are sitting in the sand dunes or on a lifesaver tower." A sleek, galley-style kitchen sits on the side wall of the living area. Again, this was designed to recede into the background, rather than be a dominant feature. However, a mosaic tile splashback, reminiscent of the rippling water in a rock pool, adds a lively touch. The master bedroom is positioned to maximise a spectacular angled view. "As with the rest of the house, there is a lot of hidden drama to be discovered as you experience the spaces," says Ponting.
Architecture : David Ponting, Matt Fitzgerald, Ponting Fitzgerald Ltd (Auckland)
Interior design : Anna Desbonnets, Anna Desbonnets Interior Design
Kitchen designer : Kitchens By Design
Kitchen manufacturer : Johannes Erren Cabinetmakers
Landscape design : Anna Nathan
Cladding : J Scott & Co Timber
Timber flooring : Engineered oak by PSP Flooring
Carpet : Natural Collections
Wallcoverings : Band-sawn ply
Lighting : Lamp Specialists
Fireplaces : Fires By Design; Warmington
Window and door hardware : Knobs ‘n Knockers
Blinds and drapes : Auckland Curtain Track Specialists
Louvres : Locarno Architectural Systems
Furniture : Paradigm Design; Alcamo Interiors
Kitchen cabinets : Lacquered
Benchtops : Amazon Leather from PSP Stonecraft
Splashback : Heritage Tiles
Oven, cooktop and ventilation : Smeg
Refrigeration and dishwasher : Fisher & Paykel
Bathroom mirrors : Custom design by David Williams
Bath, vanity and basin : Metrix
Bathroom tapware : Grohe
Bathroom floor tiles : SCE Stone & Design
Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Jamie Cobeldick