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The Changing Face of the Aussie Beach Shack

by Brodie Norris

Beachside living has become more sophisticated, but hasn’t forgotten its humble roots

The days when the simple fibro beach shack weekender dotted the Australian coastline may be gone, but these modern, sophisticated beach homes prove they’re not forgotten. These beach houses retain the essence of those simpler days, while pushing the beach shack into a new era.

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Venus Bay Bach
Designed by MRTN Architects 

This house is a modern fusion of the traditional New Zealand beach bach (pronounced as in Bachelor) and its Australian cousin, the beach shack. Set in South Gippsland, approximately two hours from Melbourne, the batten and board exterior harks back to the classic fibro and timber beach homes of the past. But don’t be fooled, this is a thoroughly modern home, inside and out. For one thing, the sustainably harvested timbers are stained a dusty green, nestling the building into the wattle and tea tree scrub on site. While a deck that recedes back into the home is its greatest, it acts as a sunny outdoor room in winter and a shaded retreat in summer. And when the wind and rain beat down (as it has a tendency to do in this lush part of Southern Victoria), the deck is the perfect sheltered place to sit back and take it all in.

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Inside, a split-level design helps the home to feel open and spacious, while still providing cosy discreet spaces for different activities. In the spirit of beach bach, the house can accommodate extended family and friends, and the kids can take over the deck, while others can enjoy a moment of solitude with a good book inside. The clever design of connected but zoned spaces allows all this to happen at once – perfect for beach living.

Hover House
Designed by Bower Architecture

This is an open and airy courtyard house, still within easy reach of the beach. The courtyard typology has become popular for modern beach houses; a way to protect the home and occupants from sometimes hostile coastal weather. This style is especially popular in coastal towns where the home doesn’t have the benefit of sweeping ocean views. Instead, architects create an inward looking home with a beautiful green internal space. Courtyards provide a laid-back space for parents to relax and kids to play whilst still feeling connected to the rest of the home.

Seal Rocks House
Designed by Bourne Blue Architecture

The exterior of this house has that familiar beach shack palette of fibre cement and corrugated iron, making it feel right at home in the beach-side town of Seal Rocks. Elegant window proportions and careful detailing are the only indications that this home is a modern interpretation of that classic style.

Once inside, it’s revealed that the Seal Rocks House is a series of utilitarian but comfortable rooms wrapped around a spacious entertaining deck. From the shelter of the central deck you can take in the vista of treetops and relax after a hard day amongst the sand and surf (or an equally hard day of relaxing).

Simple open-air bathrooms, screened only by shower curtains, really capture the spirit of holiday living – simplicity and low-fuss.

Suburban Beach House
Designed by David Barr Architect 

Just because you live in the suburbs doesn’t mean you can’t live in a relaxing modern beach house. This house gives its owners the best of both worlds. Thanks to a modern interpretation which combines the humble form of the traditional West Australian beach shack with the climatic and view-enhancing benefits of the Queenslander, Suburban Beach House is efficiently planned and perfectly positioned to take full advantage of a beautiful ocean view. A weatherboard exterior speaks to its Queenslander inspiration, setting it apart from predominately brick or stone West Australian homes. Architect David Barr designed the home to challenge the conventional way of living in Perth, offering an alternative to beach-side suburban homes. The compact home is raised above the ground, has no front door, no garage, no front fence and not a brick in site…

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Inside a rich plywood and timber interior echoes the warm yellows of the beach sand, while large windows and translucent polycarbonate flood the home with natural light. The airy interior screams laid-back beach-side living, while a layout that separates the house into day and night zones ensures the home is also practical for a young family.