December 18th, 2019.
Located on top of an escarpment at Flinders, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, sits this minimal beach house. Surrounded by a native garden, the glazed pavilion enjoys views over Western Port Bay, with glimpses of Phillip Island in the distance.
Ironically, 50 metres below is Kennon Cove, named after the ancestors of architect Rob Kennon, who designed this house. Subdivided from a neighbouring home, the triangular-shaped design appears to ‘float’ about the landscape.
Designed for a couple with young children, as well as for their extended family, the pavilion appears as single storey upon arrival. However, Kennon “buried three-quarters of the lower ground floor to firmly anchor the house to the site.” “We’re close to a fault line, which was one reason a decision was made to conceal the lower level,” says Kennon, who used the concrete block walls of the basement almost like footings.
On the lower level is the children’s rumpus room, two bedrooms fitted with bunk beds (sleeping up to six children) and a shared bathroom, divided into a series of glass cubicles. “This way a number of children can use the bathroom at the same time,” says Kennon. And although the children’s level is ‘buried’, elongated slot windows along the perimeter allow for subdued natural light. “The sun can be fairly intense over the summer months so having this subterranean space also provides some relief,” says Kennon.
The lower and upper levels of the Bluff house have a distinctly different feel, described by Kennon as “positive and negative.” “The lower level is quite inward-looking, and quite robust, while the first floor is considerably lighter and more delicate,” says Kennon, pointing out the fine steel-framed windows and doors that enclose upper level. “It’s quite a different typology to the traditional beach houses you see along the peninsula, elevated above the Ti-trees to take in the sea views,” he adds.
The approach to the house is non-conventional, with the front terrace doubling as an informal outdoor room. Framed by operable black-stained timber-battened doors, this irregular-shaped space is fully protected from the elements with a timber-battened roof, complete with a layer of translucent polycarbonate. “These doors can be fully retracted or closed. You still get the breeze either way,” says Kennon. The stone tiled floor on the terrace extends throuhgout the entire first floor, as does the use of timber, with some battened and others such as American oak for the kitchen and living room joinery. “I wanted to keep the material palette as simple and as limited as possible, being conscious of the setting,” says Kennon.
The kitchen, for example, features a timber-clad island bench with a stone top to complement the floors. This stone can also be seen in the kitchen’s splashback when the timber doors to this joinery unit are left open. And rather than bringing in the type of furniture one would find in the city, the casual and only dining area features a bench and table setting that could equally be used outdoors. “It was creating a relaxed coastal feel, a place where the children can be free to explore,” says Kennon, who enjoys seeing the children jump off the cantilevered edge of the living room and into the scrub, less than one metre below.
As with the kitchen that can be fully ‘closed down’, the living area features only one wall of built-in joinery. The American oak cupboards can be left open at night while watching television but left concealed during the day. “This space is more like a shelter. You feel as though you’re sitting in the bush, but obviously protected from the wind and the cold during the winter months,” says Kennon, who included a ‘floating’ steel open fireplace in the living area.
While some beach houses are filled with stuff no longer wanted in the city abode, here everything is minimal and streamlined, not dissimilar to an art gallery. “It’s an emotional response to this setting, unique along the peninsula,” says Kennon. “You can’t feel the wind or the heat, but you literally feel as though you’re sitting in the bush, simply protected by the roof,” he adds.
Rob Kennon Architects can be contacted on 03 9015 8621
Photography by Derek Swalwell.
Words by Stephen Crafti.