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Who wouldn’t want to live right on the water? St. Andrews Beach, a coastal getaway on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, is only an hour’s drive from Melbourne and has become the hot spot for those looking to disconnect—including this couple. “If you have a St. Andrews Beach house, you’ve made it,” says their architect, Ray Dinh of Andrew Maynard Architects

Coming Full Circle

Vacation homes are common in the area, but the owners were drawn to more demure architecture. They tasked Dinh with building them a bach, a type of modest New Zealand beach structure that gained popularity in the 1950s, often made of sustainable materials. Sounds easy enough? Wrong. The property is on a sand dune, a site that until now had lacked power and water. To top it off, it also happens to lay within a bushfire protection zone. “We essentially ended up with a circular building, as it was the most efficient siting clear of the protection zone, with 360-degree views,” says Dinh.  


When it came to materials, Dinh kept it simple: silvertop ash, a dense fire-resistant Australian hardwood; concrete (to capture and release heat throughout the day); a central steel spiral staircase; and double-glazed windows—all with the aim to create a home that is as eco-friendly as possible. Out of sight there are solar panels on the rooftop and a cylindrical rainwater collection system, which services the bathrooms and irrigates the garden. 


Doors Always Open

One thing the house doesn’t have? Hallways. Dinh went for a corridor-free design that would keep the layout as unobstructed as possible. Following the path of the sun, the compact, 1,500-square-foot floor plan gives the kitchen (fit with Corian countertops and a Smeg stovetop) access to beautiful northern light, while the dining room and the living room, separated by a peninsula, enjoy afternoon light. (The more utilitarian spots on the first floor—a bathroom, laundry room, and storage area—all face south, where there are no direct rays.) Even some of the external walls are removable; the home opens up to the outside via bifold doors.

Upstairs, three bedrooms are divided solely by curtains for maximum floor space. The built-in bunk room and a traditional primary bedroom sandwich a middle flex area, which is “sometimes used as a playroom or is the spot for a blow-up mattress when friends or family come to visit,” says Dinh. And although the couple had originally intended the house to be a spot for quick trips, they’ve thoroughly enjoyed embracing a slower pace of life down by the beach. 


The Goods