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Design Brief

Our original overall design brief was:

  • A traditional weatherboard beach house look. By choosing a more classical look, we hope it won’t look dated in 30 years like a lot of contemporary designed houses do.¬†
  • Four bedrooms so that the whole family could stay together during the summer.
  • Very low maintenance as we want to spend our holidays on the beach rather than painting! This heavily influenced our choice of materials.
  • As close to the beach as possible to make the most of the view.
  • Apply universal living (Livable Housing Design) principles so that all generations can use the beach house.
  • Consider passive house principles.

Here’s our initial floor plan.


While the fundamentals haven’t changed between the original and the final floor plans – L shape, large living/dining/kitchen, four bedrooms, bathroom and ensuite, deck in the middle of the L and a fireplace – as we worked through the design with the family, thinking about how we wanted to use the beach house, things slowly changed.

One of the main areas we changed was the deck/verandah area at the rear of the house. The deeper this area is the further back the beach house is from the beach/water and therefore the view from the inside. While it would be wonderful to sit out on the deck here, we also realised that it is common to have strong winds on the west so there would be limited times a year when we will enjoy it. We made the decision to delete the deck as we decided that we would prefer to save our money and have the beach house closer to the view. We also thought we could always have a patio in front of the living/dining/kitchen area, which wouldn’t need planning permission and therefore not push the house back.

Another change that we made was the position of the fireplace. Having a fireplace was one of the non-negotiables for some of the members of the family but we realised that it was going to be hard to arrange the furniture with the fireplace on the east wall and the view on the opposite wall. In the end we moved the fireplace to the middle of the north wall.

Both the main bedroom and ensuite were both slightly increased in size due to universal living principles.

We also added a bit more room to the living area, a tad more to the kitchen and moved the bedrooms around a bit so that the front of the beach house was asymmetrical, making it more interesting to look at.

So here is our final floor plan:

The front of the beach house, otherwise known as the east elevation, with its main feature being a double gable. We chose this design as it suited our floor plan, gave the front a bit of character and was cheaper than the ¬†traditional bullnose verandah options you quite often see on Victorian houses. While we wanted a more classic looking house, we didn’t want to reproduce a particular point in time.

With the block being relatively narrow, you can see from the elevation above that it takes up almost the entire block width, especially when you take into consideration the required planning setbacks.

On the north elevation, you can see the deck area. While there are large windows for the two north facing bedrooms, the windows on the living room north wall are relatively small as the fireplace is between them. The living room also includes a lot of glass, mostly on the west/view side and we didn’t want the room to feel too goldfish bowl like.

The west elevation contains lots of windows to make the most of the view. The windows in the living and dining areas start around 75cm and go to 230cm from the floor to maximise the view but still give a bit of privacy. In the kitchen area, the windows start just above the bench tops.

The south side has only a few windows – some in the kitchen, a high window in the bathroom and a window in the small bedroom. There are no windows near the front of the house as this is where the water tanks will go.

Due to the sandy soil and the risk of coastal erosion instead of having a slab or strip  foundations, the beach house has pier foundations. The piers are made of concrete and are 2 metres deep. To make the beach house feel spacious, all the rooms have 2.7 metre ceilings.