Embracing Simplicity – Sorrento Beach House by Pandolfini
Sorrento, VIC, Australia
Sorrento Beach House embraces the simplicity of the traditional holiday home. Set around a central garden, a series of light and airy pavilions are arranged to create a calm and relaxed coastal retreat that captures the essence of summers spent on the beach and by the pool.
“The client’s family has a long history of holidaying in the area, and this informed the design, which has a sense of nostalgia for the simple forms of holiday homes of the past, updated to suit modern family life,” says Dominic Pandolfini. Having previously worked with Pandolfini Architects on a project in Melbourne, the clients already had a strong alignment with the studio’s approach. “We always set out to create projects that hold their strength in simplicity, are enduring and highly considered in their detail,” Dominic explains. “Both the interior and exterior details of this home reflect this, with a classic yet modern gabled roof form and simple yet carefully considered interior spaces.”
As a holiday home, it was important that the Sorrento Beach House could accommodate not only the clients but also friends who might stay for a weekend or a period of time over the holidays. With the low-lying form key to the building’s relaxed coastal elegance, the house extends outwards rather than upwards. Five pavilions are sprawled across the site and gathered around the garden at the centre. Combining elements of a traditional rural structure in form and materiality with the lines, detailing and light palette of a mid-century modernist pavilion, the project establishes a connection to its context.
“Designed to create a series of communal and secluded spaces, the pavilion concept allowed for defined spaces for adults and children, along with flexible, generous living spaces suited to entertaining,” Dominic says. “The main bedroom pavilion has a sense of privacy, calm and seclusion, while the main living spaces are generous and relaxed.” The arrangement of the pavilions was key to creating this balance between privacy and openness, facilitating a sense of connection to the site while ensuring that even the most open indoor and outdoor spaces feel like a private retreat.
Although Sorrento, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, has traditionally been a holiday seaside village, its popularity has seen the area become increasingly built up. “There are some quite large two-storey houses adjacent to the site,” explains Dominic. “We carefully located the pavilions and curated the openings so that these houses are largely obscured when you’re inside and in the central garden, which was crucial to creating a sense of seclusion.”
The garden design by Fiona Brockhoff complements the architectural intent, with expanses of lawn enhancing the sense of openness and maintaining lines of sight between the pavilions, while loose, low plantings evoke the coastal landscape. Protected from the sea breezes by the surrounding pavilions, “the garden spaces and planting help the home nestle into the coastal environment,” Dominic says. “The success of the project is about the relationship between the internal spaces, built form and the beautifully considered garden.”
The glazed links between each pavilion enhance this sense of connection. In contrast to the strong masonry walls, “glass bridges link each pavilion, providing a clear sense of transition between spaces, as well as allowing glimpses of the garden spaces as you move through the house,” describes Dominic. As a result of this detail, one’s awareness of the threshold between each pavilion is emphasised. The relationship between the individual structures is undoubtedly strong, yet the experience as one moves between the buildings is almost like momentarily exiting outside into the garden, demarcating the moment of transition.
Predominantly, however, the project crafts an effortless continuity that creates a sense of flow between indoors and outdoors and between pavilions and interior spaces. The project employs Pandolfini Architects’ honed approach to materiality, Dominic explains. “The strong yet simple forms of our work as a studio are best complemented by a minimal material palette,” he says. “For this project, we utilised a reductive palette of weathered timber and bagged brickwork for the exterior and a similarly pared-back interior. Materials share textural, soft, and muted qualities, which together create a serene environment.”
Against this simplified palette, select handcrafted elements and moments of unexpected colour and texture enliven the interior. Woven pendant lighting above the dining table and tactile kitchen cabinetry introduce blue tones to the otherwise light, neutral palette. Similarly, a patterned blue tile in the master ensuite offers a subtle Mediterranean reference, while a more subdued, textured tile in the other bathrooms imbues a handmade aesthetic. All bathrooms and ensuites, meanwhile, feature timber vanities, ceramic light fittings and brass fixtures that imbue a sense of relaxed luxury.
The gable roof, which from the outside creates a familiar regularity of form, is expressed internally, offering volume and emphasising the pavilions’ airy spaciousness. The pitched ceiling and exposed white-painted rafters evoke the simplicity of the traditional beach house, while soft, translucent curtains filter natural light in the main living, kitchen and dining pavilion. The result is a sense that, while the home is pleasantly connected to the outdoors and wider coastal environment, it also offers a place to retreat on the hottest summer days.
“We set out to create a home that felt like a calm oasis amidst what is becoming a densely developed area. The clients have described the home as a ‘haven’, so we are happy to feel we’ve achieved that goal,” Dominic says. Tranquil and understated, yet embodying a clear, refined approach, the Sorrento Beach House is a quintessential holiday home.