With only a steep incline separating the ‘Cliff House’ from the beach, the architects, Benjamin Stibbard and Kate Fitzpatrick, were mindful of designing a robust house that also offered protection from the southerly winds experienced directly ahead. This orientation to the south and these dramatic views informed the design, with a central courtyard allowing both unimpeded views through the living areas, as well as from the two bedrooms positioned to the rear of the 500-square-metre site.
Given the location, and often extreme weather conditions, Auhaus created a robust three-level home, with the lower level, comprising the garage, art studio and a separate wing for the owners’ grandparents, partially submerged. “It was important the extended family had their own spaces, as well as be able to come together,” says Stibbard, who included sitting areas for these bedrooms (the adult children occupy the two rear bedrooms and the owners occupy the top level).
Constructed in in-situ concrete and grey box, appearing both inside and out, there’s a blurring of the two as one enters through the timber-battened portal adjacent to the garage. The generous forecourt only includes an outdoor shower, but also a peek at the dramatic curvaceous steel staircase that links the three levels of the front pavilion. And to allow the elements to be enjoyed upon arrival there’s an organic-shaped concrete skylight/aperture directly above.
While each have their own spaces, the family comes together on the middle level, with the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas enjoying ‘front row’, leading to the protected courtyard/swimming pool and roof garden (above the garage) designed by landscape architect Bethany Williamson. And although the view of the ocean is dramatic, so is the white-painted steel staircase that ‘pierces’ the home’s core. Given the location, the interiors are fairly subdued, with dark kitchen joinery and stained timber floors. And in some areas, such as the living area, the in-situ concrete feature wall, complete with fireplace, provides a protective nook from the elements. To add to the sense of cocooning, the living area is a few steps below the dining area and kitchen. “We included a modest terrace to the south, but this was treated more as a viewing platform, given the ferocity of the prevailing winds,” says Stibbard. The extensive use of timber in the kitchen and living room ceilings together with the bespoke timber joinery, also adds a layer of texture and warmth when contrasted to the home’s polished concrete floors.
Given the home’s fairly exposed location and its point of entry, near a children’s playground and a lengthy set of stairs leading to the beach, Auhaus was mindful of setting back the first- floor courtyard to the street. “The site benefits from a generous street reserve but we wanted to ensure the owners didn’t feel as though they were in a ‘goldfish bowl’,” says Stibbard, who, with Williamson, used the top of the garage to create a buffer zone to the swimming pool (part of the garage’s rear wall functions as a balustrade).
Although the ‘Cliff House’ has a become a landmark at Ocean Grove, with those passing by regularly taking out their iPhones for photographs. For the owners it’s a great home that will be enjoyed for generations to come. “Given it’s a permanent home, we were also mindful of creating a level of detail that went beyond the beach shack,” says Stibbard, pointing out the concrete hearth that wraps around the lounge. “It doubles as a seat when a few additional guests come over.”