Macmasters Beach House
Polly Harbison Design is a Sydney-based practice committed to creating sophisticated and elegantly-resolved architecture. From initial sketch concepts through to construction and completion, their strength lies in their ability to solve complex design problems with beautiful, built outcomes. Polly Harbison studied architecture at the University of Sydney. Prior to starting Polly Harbison Design, she worked for award-winning architects on a range of residential, multi-residential and large-scale public projects.
Take a Closer Look
Macmasters Beach House is nestled into an exposed beachfront site, surrounded by a precious pocket of natural bush and shrubbery. Designed by Polly Harbison Architects, the holiday home needed to accommodate a large family and the comings and goings of friends. The original dilapidated shack, with its small 50sqm footprint, was bursting at the seams and no longer sufficed.
The owners desired a place that enabled the family to spend time with and get to know those important people in their lives. They also wanted a home that was tucked into the site like an object within the bush; one that fostered a connection with the outdoors and optimised the views of greenery and water rather than becoming just another suburban block.
The success of the project is that every inch of the building is filled with family and friends all summer, yet it still feels like a beach shack connected to the beauty of outdoors
While the internal footprint of the living level isn’t substantial, Polly has created a feeling of generosity as both sides of the house open up and the Beauford standstone flooring extends outside into an outdoor room.
The terraces wrapping around the sides of the living area therefore allow the occupants to follow the sun or shade while lounging outdoors.
“Using the stone floor both inside and out was critical to creating this effect,” says Polly. “It is the edges of the stone floor – the ocean side balustrade and the curved garden wall – that become effectively the ‘walls’ of the room.”
Fittings & Fixtures
Hunter Pacific Radical DC
Sussex Scala Reece
Cheminees Philippe Radiante
Eco Outdoor Bronte Outdoor Table
The material palette was chosen to complement the location rather than distract from it. The sandstone also adds warmth to the building and, together with the timber and concrete, the materials will weather gracefully. These finishes create a calm and natural background, allowing for the house to sit well within the bush context.
This feeling of ease and uncomplicated living has also been extended through the build. “Paterson Builders were very mindful about limiting waste and re-using materials,” says Polly. Re-crafting the original shack’s salvaged joints into door jams and shelving may have taken additional time but resulted in a handcrafted approach unique to the home. The structure’s timber boards were also re-used to create the textured off-form concrete ceiling in the main living area.
Michael Cooke’s planting is critical to the overall design, as the building balances the brilliance of the ocean with carefully captured views of greenery and bush
The structure was exposed and left as the final finish adding not only to the aesthetics of the home, but helped to restrain the budget. “It is a balance of extremes,” says Polly. “The fixtures are low-cost and secondary to the big gestures of embracing the ocean and the bush.”
Externally, the natural setting was carefully preserved and respected. The home’s location is prominent to the local community as it is surrounded by the last pocket of remanet bush vegetation at the base of the small headland. As such, retaining the greenery was seen as integral to the success of the design project.
Eco Outdoor Beauford sandstone was used to extend the interior living space seamlessly out to the terraces. The darker tones of the stone helped reduce the summer glare as well as create a richer, more varied finish. “It is the softness of the stone underfoot; the way it feels to walk on in bare feet that makes it exceptional,” says Polly. “Everyone who visits the house is surprised how soft and warm it feels. This tactile quality sets it apart.”
The brass balustrade was one of the most extravagant expenses of the project. For Polly, it was a design element she wasn’t going to compromise on. She explains: “It was so important because when you’re looking at the view it’s a huge part of the beach house experience.”
Being familiar with the material, Polly managed to refine the concept to create a more economical design without compromising aesthetics. The balustrade is as fine as you can get while still being compliant and the finish marries well with the site’s surrounds. “The brass goes a stunning colour the way it patinas off and sits beautifully with the nearby banksias.”