WORDS Stephanie Hope PHOTOS Derek Swalwell
A cosy retreat on Australia’s Victorian coast evokes nostalgic memories of holidays past while paying homage to its rugged landscape setting.
On a blustery stretch of coastline three hours south of Melbourne, you’ll find this exquisitely crafted holiday home sitting pretty on the dunes. Both the property’s owner, Fiona Leahy, and her architect cousin, Patrick Kennedy of Melbourne-based firm Kennedy Nolan, share a deep connection with Sandy Point, having spent their youth holidaying in the seaside hamlet. And so, with visions of a coastal retreat reminiscent of her childhood, Fiona bought a vacant plot in the area. There needed to be room for the whole family – including her and husband Tony’s three teenagers – with places to both meet or retreat, and it had to be robust enough to be used in all seasons. And with his nuanced understanding of her style and connection to this place, Patrick was the obvious person to design it.
The project posed a few challenges, not least the remote location, in a bushfire zone on a steeply sloping block. But as Patrick says, “Some challenges are actually opportunities.” He designed the house like a pinwheel, incorporating a series of twists, turns and stepped levels between zones to follow the natural undulations of the sloping land. A central cloister-like courtyard connects the different zones and serves as a common area for guests, while also providing constant reminders of the coastal surroundings. “You are always circulating between rooms via this protected outdoor space, which keeps you in touch with the sounds and smells of the coast and the spectacular vault of stars overhead,” Patrick explains.
The surrounding landscape also informed the home’s palette. Fire-resistant silvertop ash cladding on the exterior will weather over time and recede into the indigenous setting. Inside, curved timber batten ceilings are a nod to the rolling sea, and circular windows give off nautical vibes. Olive-green walls echo the bush surrounds and provide a subdued backdrop for the understated furnishings.“The intensity of the green imprints on the memory and ensures that family times here will have distinct associations that reverberate over a lifetime,” Patrick says.
Needless to say, Fiona was thrilled with the end result. “She said the house felt instantly familiar and just right – which is the very best compliment,” he says.