The Portsea beach shack was a CHI (Consolidated Homes Industries) home designed by Robin Boyd in 1955 and built in 1956. As with Boyd's other house plans borne from progressive services like the Small Homes Service from 1947 and CHI from 1955 (bringing modernism to Melbourne and making well-designed homes accessible to people of modest means), this charming beach shack had a warm humanity, embodying Boyd's design principles of restrained materiality and a sympathetic engagement with the natural landscape. Our clients had a full appreciation of the house's modernist charm with its abundant light and clever detailing but the updated kitchen wasn't working as a functional area for holiday entertaining. It had been renovated by prior owners, possibly in the early 2000’s, with red cabinetry and uncomplimentary finishes and the fact that it wasn't original made revisiting the design a little less daunting.
Our vision was to embrace the humanity of the house and further enhance the way of living it encouraged, improving function and connectivity in a way that complemented the existing house without (we hope!) destroying any Boyd design intent. By pushing the footprint out only 700mm to the south west, we were able to make the kitchen functional with space, storage and finishes that helped re-establish the beach shack feel and charm and further enhance its engagement with the outdoors. The kitchen was opened up to the dining area to improve entertaining functionality but zoning characteristic of Boyd and his modernist values – including suspended shelving and banquette seating – was used to maintain character and intimacy. Laundry and storage areas were reworked and windows and doors in the living areas replaced to improve thermal capability and to open the living area up to the deck with sliding doors used by Boyd in similar houses of the time. Original cabinetry hardware was reinstated and the 3/4 partitioning separating the kitchen and living areas was used to house a bar area and instil a sense of fun. Soft belceppo terrazzo and Boyd's much-loved lining board (the original profile sourced from the local hardware store, still in stock from Boyd's specification perhaps!) were used in the new areas to make sure the fresh clean palette of white walls and original Vic Ash flooring retained plenty of personality. The original fireplace and patinaed copper flu are a stand-out feature in the living area with Jardan's luxuriously comfy Sunny sofa and Douglas & Bec's beautifully crafted RD armchairs making it all the more inviting. There was so much to learn from and be inspired by from this special home. We had great fun working on it with lovely, trusting clients and a great building team.
Photography by Chris McConville