Located in the back streets of old Mount Martha (an established Melbourne bayside suburb at the gateway to the Mornington Peninsula), this single-storey holiday residence is a serene sanctuary enveloped by nature. The brief to create a multi-generational private family retreat also called for a strong connection to context and distinct zones for privacy and entertaining.
Biophilic design principles underpinned the primary response and facilitated the seamless integration of interior and exterior. Sited to maximise the northern aspect by hugging the southern boundary, the design locates a triangular plan around a central courtyard and utilises the gentle fall of the site to maximise the penetration of natural light year-round.
A high, solid, charred-timber wall shields the home from the street to establish an immediate sense of privacy. This wall peels away to reveal a covered entry, beyond which lie the main volumes: living spaces distinctly separated from private zones, each wrapping around the landscaped courtyard, and with full-height windows framing the landscape. Continuous visual and spatial connection is enabled by a glass breezeway to the main retreat and a glazed hallway to the kids’ wing, which, in turn, leads to the living space.
Each room is flooded with natural light, highlighting the simplified palette of materials – the timber lining, blockwork and glass, with pared-back finishes and a soft green-blue palette – while the pergola and central courtyard create an everchanging play of shadow and light, as well as providing protection from the elements.
The interplay of transparency and solidity across the facade breaks the visual bulk of the building mass, an aesthetic decision as much as a functional one, for the blockwork provides thermal mass and the high-performance double glazing maintains internal temperature, while louvres allow cross ventilation. Further sustainable practices include extensive insulation, solar panels, hydronic heating, ceiling fans, storm-water collection and maximal natural light.
Allied disciplines included engineers to consult on glazing, concealed pelmet details with custom-made, folded steel lintels, and the large curved canopy in the courtyard. Energy specialists advised on passive heating and cooling, and landscapers consulted on maximising the integration of landscape.
Budget management included the specification of low-cost interior materials and fittings, and elegant, yet low-maintenance finishes.In summary, Mount Martha House subtly reveals itself as a versatile and sensitive site intervention, deftly balancing expansive entertaining zones and an openness to the surrounding landscape with enclosed elements that offer a haven of privacy and sanctuary to those within.