A Contemporary Refinement — Flinders House By Foomann Architects
Surrounded by lush, mature grounds on Bunurong Country of the Mornington Peninsula, Flinders House by Foomann Architects is a sensitive renovation, punctuated by simple materials and refined details. Channelling the spirit of the original building, the design exemplifies a modernist sensibility interpreted through a contemporary lens.
Originally a Glenvill Home built in the late 1980s, Flinders House was first renovated in 2002. Jamie Sormann, Co-Founder of Foomann Architecture along with Jo Foong, explains that the building “had been a family holiday home for 20 years. The clients, now retired, expect to increasingly spend their time there but wanted the renovated home to accommodate friends and family for extended stays.” Having already worked with the clients previously, one of whom is an architect, Jamie describes the relationship as “highly collaborative”. Both parties found resonance within the exposed timber frames and thin flat roofs of the post-war houses that remain in the region. “We sought to work in a similar modernist tradition but with contemporary materials and technology,” Jamie explains. He also notes that being conceived during the peak of the pandemic, with discussions for the project commencing in March 2020, Flinders House “provided our studio with respite and optimism.”
The resulting work exudes this sense. A light refurbishment of the ply clad garage and east portion of the house was in order. This existing building, along with the new build, were then clad in the same black plywood as the garage. “This consistent finish helped tie together the different eras of building work and provided a base for the pavilion-like family room to emerge from,” says Jamie. The new addition, which contains two bedrooms along with kitchen and living areas, “was designed on a similar footprint to the demolished portion of the building,” he continues. “In this way, most of the existing garden and decking could be undisturbed.” Whilst the roof of the new pavilion fits the modernist vernacular, it has been cleverly manipulated. “The roof of the family room appears thin, but it’s a trick,” Jamie explains. “We provided plenty of depth in the roof and we worked the angles so you can’t see beyond the steel fascia anywhere on the site.”
The kitchen and living areas create an impression of peace and simplicity. Jamie explains that, ultimately, “the house is a reflection of the occupants – orderly, precise, open and welcoming.” Glulam timber beams support the living area, running through the interior and out beneath the eaves. The appeal of this material to Jamie lay within its “consistency and performance. It also allowed us the opportunity to create rebates for concealed lighting and openings for our downpipes to drop through.” The interior palette is calm and neutral – white plastered walls, almost gallery-like, and sparse yet impactful black detailing, like the wall behind the black woodfire, separated from the black ply wall outside by just a few millimetres of glass. Light bounces off the soft grey polished concrete floor, reflecting a shadowy, upside-down image of the room it supports, whilst the light, creamy tones of raw ply that lines the kitchen and ceiling relate harmoniously to the black textured plywood that clads the exterior of the home – the yang to its yin.
Such simple materials called for an expertly executed build. “Fido Projects were selected as the builder early in the process as we share a similar ethos and love of detail,” says Jamie. The success of the partnership is evident in details like the beams, ceiling and roof over the living area pavilion. For Jamie, “the precision of these junctions sets the tone” of the entire project. This pavilion ceiling is an expanse of exactingly joined ply, neatly encasing the room. The effect is such that the abutting floor-toceiling glazing and the dense garden beyond are framed like paintings. The outlook from the dining room table feels like a living, breathing David Hockney landscape, complete with layers of trees, both bushy and bare, a freshly clipped lawn, and a low-key driveway gently curving out of sight. Enabled by such a restrained, impeccable interior, Jamie describes the garden as “the hero of the home” – as seasons change, a captivating tableau is observed from this vantage.
Whilst Flinders House presents as simple, it is by no means submissive. The house is quietly confident. It feels grounded, both literally and figuratively. It sits low to the ground, as is the modernist way, embedded within and looking out onto an incredibly settled garden. The house is, also, itself a place to settle. It is the base from which a new phase of life can unfold and to which loved ones will come, seeking company and all that is good and grounding.