Sense of Place – Blairgowrie House by Powell & Glenn Architects and Watts Studio
A close collaboration between Powell & Glenn Architects, Watts Studio and Ian Barker Gardens instils Blairgowrie Beach House with a strong sense of place and purpose. With raw and textured natural materials, tones inspired by the coast and vegetation, and an eclectic landscape of native plantings, this home belongs to and amplifies its context to induce a holiday state of mind.
The owners – a family with children – had holidayed on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula for many years prior to purchasing their Blairgowrie property, a large block with well-established trees and a slope that provided privacy from the street. They engaged Powell & Glenn Architects, Watts Studio and Ian Barker Gardens to design the architecture, interiors and landscaping respectively, with a strong collaboration ensuring the cohesiveness of all three
The clients wanted a home that would comfortably accommodate small and large groups of people and suit summer and winter living. “They were looking for a low-key and informal house that was well connected to the garden,” says architect Ed Glenn. In a nod to the architect-designed 1960s houses along the Mornington Peninsula, Powell & Glenn designed a one-storey home that nestles into its surroundings.
The garden vistas and existing moonah trees were a key factor in designing the form and layout. Sitting at the top of the site, the house has a northeast aspect over the garden. Powell & Glenn used a limited palette of materials, contrasting the raw texture of spotted gum, limestone and cement with the sleek character of steel and glass. “This reduced selection of materials allowed for a clearer focus on the architecture’s relationship to the landscape,” says Ed.
The house is comprised of a series of timber pavilions, limestone features and a sculptural concrete volume. Steel-framed glass and a steel pavilion connect these elements, whilst disguising the scale of the house and blurring the distinction between indoor and outdoor space. The limestone also further integrates house and garden, as Ian Barker Gardens has continued it into the landscape for low raised walls and seating areas.
Ian Barker was involved from early stages of the design, and his collaborations with the clients on previous projects provided a comprehensive understanding of their needs. “The clients are plant lovers, particularly flowers, but they also wanted as many natives, and especially locally indigenous natives, to be included in the landscape as possible. The resulting planting can be described as eclectic, although plants are carefully placed to create contrast and interest,” says Ian.
From the street, the landscaping somewhat hides the view of the house, but walking through the front door there is clear sightline down the hallway to the terrace and gardens beyond. “It offers a sense of surprise for friends visiting the home for the first time,” says interior designer Felicity Watts. The living, dining and kitchen – located front and centre in the house – also focus on this view, as does the main bedroom.
The private spaces in the house are zoned for parents, children, and guests, with the parents’ room facing the garden, the children’s bedrooms at the rear, and the guest bedroom and study providing additional accommodation. There is also a billiard room and a rumpus room, which is located in an irregular elliptical-shaped volume. This looks out to the pool, and an external staircase curves up to the rooftop terrace.
The brief for the interiors was cosy, bright and beachy, with an industrial touch.
The brief for the interiors was cosy, bright and beachy, with an industrial touch. “We didn’t want a cliché beach-house vibe, but rather a well-designed, homely feel with a focus on the carefully curated material choice,” says Felicity. The architecture and landscaping influenced the material choices, with limestone, concrete and timber continued inside. Similarly, the tones of the coast and vegetation inspired the colour palette, with soft and natural greys, tans, greens and blues selected for their connection to nature. Furnishings are comfortable for small and large groups of people, with oversized modular sofas, extendable dining tables, customised bunks and convertible beds.
The limestone fireplace takes centre stage in the living room, with views of the garden to either side. It is a relaxed and understated space that allows the architecture and landscaping to come to the fore. “Here the family can relax, read a book in the window seat in summer or do puzzles in front of the fire in winter,” Felicity describes. Small seating opportunities, like the window seat, provide little sanctuaries inside and outside the house, where the family can find moments of cosiness and calm in the holiday setting.
The client’s brief was for “storage, storage, storage,” says Felicity Watts.
With an oversized island bench and generous butler’s pantry, the kitchen and dining area is comfortable for entertaining large groups. The natural quartzite has a soft teal colouring that brings in the coastal tones, while the blonde timber cabinetry adds warmth. The client’s brief was for “storage, storage, storage,” says Felicity, which has been met with the generous butler’s pantry and full-height cabinetry throughout the kitchen and dining space.
Watts Studio custom designed joinery to further provide plenty of storage throughout the house, making holiday living easy. Guest beds fold down from within the wall cabinetry in the study, the mud room has a drying cupboard for wetsuits and sailing gear, and hallway drawers provide a place to drop bags, sun hats and keys after a day at the beach.
Through this collaboration between Powell & Glenn Architects, Watts Studio and Ian Barker Gardens, Blairgowrie House has a strong sense of place and purpose, so the family and their friends can relax into their beach holiday. “This house does what a beach house should do – it creates a different state of mind to an urban dwelling,” says Ed.