2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Photo Credit : Photographer - Earl Carter www.earlcarter.com.au

Project Overview

By their very nature, weekenders and beach houses need to provide flexible accommodation so that when numbers swell — especially over long summer holidays — friends and family can be comfortably housed. For that reason Rob Mills always tries to provide separate living areas so that extended family and friends can stay with ease.

Project Commissioner

Private Client

Project Creator

Robert Mils Architect Pty Ltd


Robert Mills Architects
Furniture - Hub Furniture, Parterre Gardens
Art - Scott Livesey Galleries
Photographer - Earl Carter

Project Brief

The Client's brief was to build a home that was a great entertaining space as well as one that could expand to accommodate friends and family. This Sorrento beach house, is more than generous in terms of both the accommodation it provides and the volume of those spaces.

Concrete was used at the owner’s request; he asked for a dwelling that felt more durable and permanent than the usual timber beach house, but one that still embodied a casual nature. Rob Mills responded by designing a building with an interior that was completely unadorned and, in his words, reasonably pure in form — a quality embodied in traditional Japanese architecture and the ancient stone monastries of the south of France.

There is a Zen-like stillness to the monochromatic interior, with exposed pre-formed concrete panel walls, honed basalt floors and pale grey ceilings. Any elements within the space, such as the living room fireplace, are simple geometric forms.

Project Innovation / Need

The 1600sqm block on which the house stands faces almost due north and slopes to the street. To make the most of the northerly orientation the house was pushed back on the block to maximise the area of sunny private open space in front of the building.
'The convention is to put the living space at the back of the house, but we put it where the sun is, which sometimes means the reverse,” says Mills. “This had to be a great entertaining house, and the large living area, outdoor terrace and pool had to open up as one space.”

With no expansive views to capture, the first floor is dedicated to sleeping quarters. The ground floor is entirely given over to living space, with an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area opening onto a north-facing terrace edged with a swimming pool. At one end of the terrace is an outdoor living area centred around a towering fireplace; at the other is an alfresco dining and cooking area, with an outdoor bar. When the doors to the terrace are open, the living area more than doubles in size.

Design Challenge

Utilising the natural slope of the site, a drop from the pool terrace to the garden below negates the need for a pool fence, while leaving the view from the house unimpeded and offering the owners privacy from the street.


Many of the materials used were sourced locally, the terrace pergola is made from recycled hardwood, over which canvas awnings are strung during hot weather.
Energy-efficient features include a smart lighting system, solar heated pool and motorised oversize exterior window louvres, which provide natural light and ventilation. The concrete walls and basalt floors provide thermal mass.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.
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