Working closely with landscape architect Amanda Oliver, the single-storey house appears recessive to the street. A charred timber wall across the façade is only broken with a double carport that includes an oculus roof. The gnarled native bush setting creates silhouettes against this façade, changing with the light. And while the owners use this carport, there’s a meandering path from the site’s northern corner (approximately 1,400 square metres), that’s used by family and friends. “One of the houses that resonates most with my clients is McGlashan & Everist’s Heidi II house (designed for arts patrons John and Sunday Reid and completed in 1967). They were after that same level of discreteness,” says Kister.
As with the Heidi House II, the Mount Martha house is designed around a courtyard, with the main pavilion comprising the open plan kitchen, dining and living areas. A ‘bridge’ or glass-framed walkway connects to the main bedroom suite, complete with an ensuite bathroom and dressing area. And on the other side of the courtyard is a secondary wing, comprising three bedrooms for children and grandchildren or friends, along with a couple of bathrooms. “The owners regularly come down here on their own so it was important that the house didn’t feel too large,” says Kister. As well as charred timber, the house, as with Heidi II, features concrete block construction and generous glazing. “I wanted to make sure that every room had both generous light as well as its own ‘curated’ view,” she adds.
Given this is a beach house, even though one that has a country feel, Kister Architects was keen to create a simple and low maintenance house. Polished concrete floors appear in the kitchen and living areas, allowing any sand to be simply swept out to the garden through sliding glass doors. “Our clients emphasised a low maintenance house,” says Kister, pointing out the simple timber veneer joinery in the kitchen, with its stone benches. Given Mount Martha can also be relatively hot over the summer months, there was also the need for the house to cool down quickly – hence many of the apertures, including the glazed link between the main bedroom and the living areas, features a series of glass louvred windows. “The house can be easily ventilated,” says Kister, who also included ceiling fans, both inside, and also on the terrace, the latter featuring crazy paving. And to strengthen the connection between inside and out, the home’s timber ceiling extends to the soffits on the terrace.
While the Mount Martha house benefits from a fairly level site, there is a slight in change in level of approximately 200 millimetres, hence the gentle ramp that connects from the main living area to the children’s wing. But apart from this difference, there’s a strong link to the garden, from both living areas and bedrooms. One request was for a Balinese-style shower where the owner felt as though she was showering outdoors – hence the ensuite to the main bedroom, with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls on two sides, is as close to nature as one can achieve. Kister also used a palette of soft green to paint some of the walls, further blurring the garden’s edge. And as with many of Kister’s designs, one can also see a few curves, that according to Kister, ‘soften the more rectilinear lines’ of this well considered beach house.