No matter where in the world you go, every country has its own individual building style – and we’re no different here in Australia.
“Australia is very much a part of an ever-developing international style of architectural language and expression,” says Craig Steere of Craig Steere Architects. “Each country develops variations on styles, materials, concepts and details to suit the requirements of their brief, topography, climatic conditions and local materials.”
Recently, however, Australians have taken their cues from other countries: we’ve been influenced by the minimal styles of Japan through to the site-sensitive bunkers of New Zealand, the warm-weather-worshipping South American abodes, and everywhere in between. Now, surely, it’s time to celebrate our own vernacular.
Given that Perth is built up along the coast, it’s no surprise that geography has influenced the WA lifestyle somewhat, particularly when it comes to our homes. So whether you’re building or renovating, creating a luxury home or a modest-but-classic beach shack, it’s time to embrace your aesthetic, swooping on beachy exterior and interior styles like seagulls on hot chips…
The coastal home in Perth enjoys a seemingly casual approach, its robust blend of materials often dressed up in a relaxed palette of metal, concrete and timber. Craig Steere singles out low-maintenance materials – such as weathered-look timber flooring, decking and cabinet veneers.
“Honed concrete floors and metal cladding that can work with the harsh climatic conditions lend themselves perfectly,” he says. “Opt for soft colour tones, potentially with contrast colours, to complement and add variation,” he says. “Look at more natural-looking materials and finishes, such as natural stone benchtops and tiles in honed, flamed, shot-blasted or sandblasted finishes in lieu of a polished look.”
Craig says, at present, clients desire functional and useable outdoor living spaces and a design that encourages quality family living in a casual, user-friendly way.
“Have a good consideration of how to shield spaces from the afternoon sun and wind, whether by permanent or fixed screening devices,” he says. “Manual or electronically operated screening devices can be applied horizontally on the roof and/or on the vertical faces.”
Mick Lamb from Vivendi Luxury Home Builders says grand entry statements, double glazed glass with thermally broken frames, concealed downpipes, frameless bi-folds, and skillion roofs are popular requests from his clients.
“I love the look of the skillion, but consideration must be made at design stage for services, gutters and the wild lateral rain that likes to find its way up and under flashings,” he says.
The orientation of the home is paramount. “Winter sun, sea breezes, views and, of course, energy efficiency are considerations,” Mick says. “Make sure your builder is using galvanised structural steel, coastal mix mortar, and roof tie-down straps per your structural engineering.”
Another useful idea that Mick suggests you consider is to familiarise yourself with the structural elements and pick up a copy of the Building Codes of Australia.
While living near the ocean presents a multitude of benefits, Craig says the coast can be severe. “Especially here in the west, where not only are we exposed to the salt air, we are also very much exposed to a harsh western sun. A belt-and-braces approach should not be discounted – from the materials you select, to the way they are fixed together, and the way they are detailed.”
However, he says being able to meet these climatic challenges of salt, sand, sun and wind has proved a source of inspiration in designing homes that create a functional, cross-seasonally appropriate and aesthetic residential outcome.
REINVENTING THE BEACH SHACK
WA has been a pioneer of beach house vernacular – just think back to the days of your childhood holidays by the beach. But now the idea of the beach shack warrants reinvention for a modern lifestyle.
“We are seeing a strong change, shifting scales from large family homes to smaller and more modest and efficient home environments,” says architect David Barr. “This is largely due to a reaction of the current economical climate, all of which we see as a positive outcome, with smaller and more innovative designs, using less material for construction and therefore reducing the impact on the environment.”
In his Suburban Beach House project in Coogee, David worked in collaboration with architect Ross Brewin to take us back to the beach, old-school. The house was designed to be compact while maintaining a sense of space through a series of interconnected rooms, creating translucent walls or apertures from one room to another.
“A decision was made not to install a front fence, thus encouraging a relaxing social interaction between neighbours, as well as expanding the sense of scale of the house itself as the boundaries became blurred,” says David. “The landscaping was predominantly native coastal plants reminiscent of the local sand dunes – unstructured and growing wildly in keeping with the local beach 500m down the road.”
Much of the home’s classic appeal stems from the choice of materials used. “For the Beach House, we opted for a white metal cladding in the profile of a weatherboard, which achieved the desired outcome of minimal maintenance and with a low absorption heat gain,” David says.
Careful consideration was also made as to the placement of windows, so that they framed specific elements, such as a tree, distant hills or the sky. “The temptation is to place huge amounts of glazing directed to the west, however the majority of the time, blinds are required to block the intense western sunlight,” says David. “On the Beach House, we limited western windows to one small 500x500mm portal window with a strong focus on protecting the house from harsh sunlight, opting to concentrate on the views to the north and south.”
The outdoor deck draws the eye to this view from the living areas, making the alfresco area the focus of the home – one of the true perks of the WA lifestyle.
While a coastal home interior style may be described as casual and nonchalant, there’s an art to achieving the look with flair. Clichés should be avoided – set
aside the full maritime theme and instead look to vintage or weathered items and finishes, combined with classic clean-lined wood furniture and ocean-hued fabrics and accessories.
Gillian Moorman, from Squarepeg Home in North Fremantle, says there’s an informality to be achieved.
“Clients are wanting a relaxed feel and a comfortable environment in which to entertain,” she explains. “The indoor/outdoor relationship is all-important,
with a focus on versatile, lighter coloured timbers – like American white oak,
for example – that lend themselves perfectly to settings that are both
formal and informal.”
She suggests choosing furniture pieces with clean, simple and unfussy lines that still provide immediate style. “The key is finding quality statement pieces and not over-furnishing, something the Scandinavians have excelled at for decades,” she says. “The vintage Danish aesthetic has a long way to run with its timeless appeal.”
From that base of simple furniture items, Gillian suggests layering with homewares. “An eclectic mix of quality vintage and contemporary pieces always works well,” she says. “Incorporating the warmth and texture of natural materials like timber and leather softens the popular vintage/industrial styling of many new coastal homes.”
She recommends practical fabrics finished in muted tones of blue, green and grey. “These provide a stylish, year-round foundation for more popular trending colours. These pops of colour can be added through ceramics, lighting and soft furnishings – I like to include naked-bulb industrial lighting.”
Greg Baker, interior designer at Ambassador Home and owner of The Angove Street Collective, says texture, light, natural linens, and cottons in faded pastels are the looks du jour. “Use them with the occasional punch of fluoro to keep it vibrant and young. Indigo is also big right now and works so well with washed whites for a classic coastal theme.”
Greg suggests adding a touch of greenery to interiors for a natural inside-out feel. “We’ve just started stocking some beautiful macramé hanging baskets by Erica Zuccala, with funky little paint-dipped oak beads and copper detailing,” he says. “Combine this with a hand-formed ceramic bowl in powder blue and you’re ready for all sorts of lazy summer greenery.”
Squarepeg also offers a new colourful range of BACSAC planter bags for indoor and outdoor settings, which work well on balconies and courtyard gardens prevalent in coastal housing.
Interior designer, stylist and homewares designer Shannon Fricke says that, when decorating with fabrics, she’s a big believer in drawing inspiration from the environment that surrounds you, and reflecting that back into your interior.
“We are lucky in this country to be surrounded by the most beautiful coastline, and so it makes sense to pick up on the colours and textures of the coast – blues, greens and sandy colours in a range of light through to roughly textured fabrics,” she says. “Of course, coastal colours vary tremendously depending on what part of the Australian coast you are most drawn to – from steely grey-blues to aquas and turquoise, with sandy colours ranging from almost white all the way through to a deep grey. There’s enormous choice in the palette.”
Shannon says that, for her, it’s all about purity of tone. “I never tire of crisp aquas and serene turquoise paired with a little bit of sparkle,” she says.
Using fabric in upholstery, curtains and cushions is a wonderful way to create a layered, exciting interior, according to Shannon. “We’re seeing a lot of tone-on-tone in coastal interiors – for example, all shades of white-on-white – which makes for a relaxed, laid-back interior that is perfect for those coastal lovers seeking time out,” says Shannon. “This look is maximised through a use of varying texture, so anything from fringing through to metallic sparkle will create interest.”
Consider outdoor spaces as an integral part of your coastal home from the get-go. “I love it when a designer considers the outdoor spaces during concept stage because we spend a lot of time outside in the fantastic Perth climate,” says Mick Lamb from Vivendi Luxury Home Builders. “Don’t get too caught up in the internal space and relative floorplan to the detriment of the outdoor space.”
When furnishing, think natural raw materials, chunky rope weave, teak and outdoor linens for this season outside, says Katie Rowley from Eco Outdoor.
“Natural materials age and weather beautifully with time and are always the perfect complement to your outdoors space,” she says. “Outdoor linen is a beautiful story this season, it’s one of the strongest fabrics, which many people don’t know.”
Katie says a long outdoor table with deep-seated comfortable chairs is ideal for long lazy lunches and dinner or, if you always have people dropping by, go for a table with a mix of bench seats and chairs to accommodate extras. “Alternatively, a modular outdoor sofa with various low coffee tables is a perfect way to make guests comfortable with a glass of wine and nibbles,” she says.
Greg Baker says cement-top tables are a great alternative to outdoor timber dining tables. “Often used in commercial premises, cement sheeting is highly durable, and introduces another material to your outdoor palette,” he says.
Greg says painted timber planters in ivory, charcoal and amethyst, planted with mature fruit trees (such as limes, apricots and lemons for a pop of colour) are a favourite look for him. He likes powder-coated metal outdoor occasional chairs in black or white, with timber features in mango wood or oak.
“The monotone palette with lots of light oak is really fresh but still stylish, and can be easily accented with aquas, turquoises or yellow,” he says. “Throw some bright cushions in outdoor fabrics on them, such as the Coolum Outdoor Range from Warwick Fabrics.”
Angove Street Collective angovestreetcollective.com.au??
Craig Steere Architects craigsteerearchitects.com.au
David Barr Architect davidbarrarchitect.com.au
Eco Outdoor ecooutdoor.com.au
Jason Grant mrjasongrant.com
Shannon Fricke shannnonfricke.com
Squarepeg Home squarepeghome.com.au
Vivendi Luxury Home Builders vivendi.com.au
Sydney-based interior stylist Jason Grant offers his advice on coastal holiday style.
In his latest book, Holiday at Home, Jason Grant has penned an ode to beachside living and his love of all things coastal. “Coastal/beach style in Australia – and Australian style generally – is relaxed, laid-back, and pretty casual,” he says. “It’s an easy style to live with.
“Look back to those long summer vacations and beachside memories of happy times – and bring the beach home to you,” Jason says. “The ocean fixes everything, it wakes you up and cools you down.”
The kitchen and dining rooms are the heart of a home. A kitchen needs to be very functional, yet also a space for creativity and entertaining, food and fun times with friends. Use your favourite plates, cook exotic meals and don’t forget to add some colour!
Get close to nature by embracing natural materials, soft fabrics, and organic shapes and textures.
I am most inspired by homes that are relaxed, uncluttered and not over-styled; homes that are decorated with personality and passion.
Embrace different patterns, textures and themes in your decorating. Not everything has to match.
- I love colour and its ability to change a mood or feeling. I am drawn to colours that evoke a fond or happy memory, from pastels to bold primary colours, all shades of grey to black, and the most perfect whites, dreamy blues and vibrant yellows.
- Decorating your home is so personal, and choosing colours to paint or decorate can be difficult. Paint sample patches on your walls and see how you feel about them after a few days.
- Earthy tones make for a relaxed home. Go neutral with straw hats, sandy beaches, market baskets, weathered timber, palm fronds, seed pods and recycled timber furniture.
- Weathering creates texture and an earthy charm – not everything needs to be new. You could make a bed out of shipping pallets or a coffee table out of a cable spool.
- I love collecting feathers, twigs, sea glass and all kinds of things at the beach. Decorating with natural and found objects is a great way to create a vacation vibe at home, and making a simple display of found objects costs nothing.
Think about creative ways to arrange and display things you love. Create collections that stick out – it really comes down to editing. Group things in pairs, odd numbers or even fours, and then rearrange your space until it feels good to you. Trust your eye and have the confidence to make decisions. Try not to overthink things. Some of my favourites are artworks from friends, stripes, timber details, kilim rugs, knitted blankets, graphic-print cushions, vintage sideboards, and indoor plants.
Take a vacation in your bathroom – it’s a place for dreaming. You can have a fantasy seaside getaway without leaving the house. Hotels are one of my favourite sources of inspiration. Whether it’s five-star or something more budget, there’s always an idea or two to bring home.
Put your favourite lotions and perfumes on display in your bathroom. Look for things in nice bottles, or buy beautiful containers that you can reuse.
Some of my favourite things are free-standing baths, coconut anything, linen sheets, beeswax candles and hand-moulded soaps. Small details can make the everyday feel a little more special.
Even better, an outdoor shower brings the beach to you!
If you’re lucky enough to have a back garden, get yourself some deck chairs and a hammock. If you have a balcony, fill it with plants and turn it into an oasis.
Even the tiniest outdoor space can be turned into a touch of paradise with hanging pots, party lights, deckchairs, wattle trees and pink flamingos.
Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive. Think differently and come up with ideas that don’t cost very much – shells, sea glass, feathers, shipping pallets. Collect succulent cuttings and surround yourself with green. Plants will grow in almost any container, so be creative.
Holiday at Home is published by Hardie Grant. Visit mrjasongrant.com for more information.