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This cosy coastal retreat fits right into its rugged landscape setting


A cosy coastal retreat evokes nostalgic memories of holidays past while paying homage to its rugged landscape setting

Meet & greet

Fiona Leahy, her husband Tony Swingler and their three teenagers.

The property

An artfully crafted bach designed in response to its windswept coastal location.

When Fiona Leahy bought a vacant block of dune-top land in a seaside hamlet where her extended family had vacationed as a child, her architect cousin Patrick Kennedy was the natural choice to design a holiday home that made the most of the dramatic location. The pair shared a deep connection with the blustery stretch of coastline, and he had a nuanced understanding of her style and her vision for a coastal retreat reminiscent of their childhood. There would be room for the whole family, with places to meet or retreat, and the hideaway should be exquisitely crafted, yet robust enough to be used in all seasons.

Tricky terrain

The project posed a few challenges, not least accessing the remote location on a steeply sloping block. But, as Patrick says, “Some challenges are really opportunities.”

He designed the house like a pinwheel, incorporating a series of twists, turns and stepped levels between zones to follow the natural undulations of the sloping land. A central cloister-like courtyard connects the different zones and serves as a common area for guests, while also providing constant reminders of the coastal surrounds. “You are always circulating between rooms via this protected outdoor space, which keeps you in touch with the sounds and smells of the coast and the spectacular vault of stars overhead,” Patrick explains.

True colours

The surrounding landscape also informed the home’s harmonious colour palette. The fire-resistant silvertop ash cladding on the exterior will grey off over time and recede into the natural setting. Inside, curved timber batten ceilings are a nod to the rolling sea and circular windows give off nautical vibes.

Olive green walls echo the bush surrounds and provide a subdued backdrop for understated furnishings. “The intensity of the green imprints on the memory and ensures that family times here will have distinct associations, which reverberate over a lifetime,” Patrick says.

Needless to say, Fiona was thrilled with the finished result. “She said the house felt instantly familiar and just right, which is the very best compliment,” he says.

How to create a home that’s one with it’s surroundings

1 Call in the experts. If you’re building on a tricky block like this, a technically clever design that’s sympathetic to the setting is key.

2 Provide constant reminders of where you are by installing windows in every room. They’ll give you views from all angles, as well as helping with air flow.

3 Choose colours and materials that reflect the outside environment. Think timber, stone and woven fabrics with neutral greens, greys and creams.

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