Spaces of Retreat – Barwon Heads House by Adam Kane Architects
The Made by Storey Series
Barwon Heads, VIC, Australia

Photography Timothy Kaye
Interior Design Adam Kane Architects
Words Bronwyn Marshall
Timber Flooring and Ceiling Made by Storey
Custom Timber Staining Scanlan & Makers
Rendering Carlier& Co.

Bolstering an existing weatherboard cottage, Adam Kane Architects takes cues from the home’s coastal milieu to conjure Barwon Heads House as a series of meditative and reductive spaces of retreat.

Textural and moody, the select materiality comprising Barwon Heads House speaks to a sense of refuge and calm, further emphasised through the open meditative spaces and compressed intimate areas dotted throughout. In its coastal setting, the inherited cottage needed to better respond to its context by reviving its tired weatherboard composition. Transforming the existing residence and adding a rear extension, Adam Kane Architects creates a play on dark and light elements, evoking a sensory engagement with the spaces. Describing his approach, founder Adam Kane says that “natural materials were critical to the home’s setting, as well as creating a relaxed feeling of durability. The play on solid and void and materiality creates a unique experience, shaped through a deep understanding of the sense of space.”

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Textural and moody, the select materiality comprising Barwon Heads House speaks to a sense of refuge and calm, further emphasised through the open meditative spaces and compressed intimate areas dotted throughout.

Responding to these counterbalancing tensions, the house formally and texturally interacts with its site. An idyllic place of escape, Barwon Heads, Adam explains, “is a coastal town and a small community that is very much in touch with the environment. The weather and salty winds play such a large part in experiencing the area. In designing this home, the area called for something textural and connected to the earth.” As a result, the brief was formed as an open dialogue with the site and a want to bring key sensibilities into the experience of the home. He adds, “the client had requested a barn-type form extension, which then gave us one big open volume to play with. Within the one space there are a number of experiences felt as you move through. There is a deliberate play on scale and an inherent sense of journey and discovery.” The existing cottage then sits proudly in the front yard, with the extension to the rear deliberately recessive against the surrounding natural elements.

Like many enviably sited homes immersed in such naturally abundant settings, allowing a coexistence between the natural and the built was key to maintaining the initial draw of the site. Through a number of mechanisms, Adam Kane Architects allows the home to respectfully sit alongside the natural, offering a celebration of both. In describing the palette and form, Adam says, “the use of mottle black and reflective walls and ceilings throughout the transition space creates a sense of enclosure, that then opens up to an expansive six-metre-high ceiling floating overhead. The large open barn space creates a sense of privacy disclosed from below. It is the simplicity of form and each of the elements lining up, the bold lines of the ceiling and the blurring of thresholds, that then reinforce the vastness and grandness of the interiors.”

In its coastal setting, the inherited cottage needed to better respond to its context by reviving its tired weatherboard composition.

Integral to the harmony of the architecture with the natural elements is the shared palette, expressed through openings and visual connections. While the landscape setting is notably relaxed and casual, the resulting home then responds through larger openings in lieu of many fussy, smaller ones, as bolder and more generous gestures to engage. “There are moments to interact with the native landscape elements and the grasses from within the home and be taken on a meditative journey,” Adam says. “The openings are all north-facing and supporting sun screening has been developed to help warm the slab during winter, while the linear kitchen is glazed with deep reveals to recess the sun penetration and give a sense of solidarity through form. The balance of both creates a monolithic feel and anchors the building to its site, reinforcing a composure to all of the comprising elements.”

As a studio known for its simplicity, Adam describes his style as timeless, refined and enduring. He wants clients to be able to enjoy the resulting spaces for many years to come, while still remaining relevant and beautiful. He adds, “instead of responding to quick style turnarounds, we have an ethical preference for something that will remain relevant for a long time. We deliberately utilise a limited palette and play with texture and tone instead of introducing gimmicky features and ornamentations. Our work is more about the subtleties in the execution.” Looking forward, Adam mentions the importance of alignment of values between architect and client and that, although there are always exciting and grand opportunities to consider, what is integral to the story of the practice is a shared focus on creating beautiful and enduring spaces.

Transforming the existing residence and adding a rear extension, Adam Kane Architects creates a play on dark and light elements, evoking a sensory engagement with the spaces.

The philosophies underpinning Barwon Heads House are an expression of Adam Kane Architects’ ethos. The home embodies sensibilities of space, light and darkness, the power of considered and restrained planning and an acute understanding of materiality. Both a place to reside and restore, the resulting home provides a calm coexistence within it natural setting.

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