Refurbished Midcentury Bay House Steers Clear of the ‘Coastal Cliché’

Text from Studio Esteta

Located along the coastline of Port Phillip Bay, within arm’s reach of the Portsea Pier, Portsea House is the refurbishment of an existing cliff top residence that pays homage to the midcentury era of the house and the surrounding coastal context. The Client’s brief sought to rejuvenate the existing double storey residence, whilst maintaining the existing building footprint, with modifications to the overall spatial arrangement to create a light filled 6 bedroom refuge tailored to our client’s love of entertaining with family and friends.

In response, our design seeks to be in synergy with the existing midcentury character opposed to competing against it, emphasizing its stylistic significance to create a light filled, serene and relaxed interior that feels wholly connected to the adjacent Weeroona Bay, in a non ‘coastal cliché’ way.

Having a deep appreciation for midcentury design, our Clients favoured existing details to be maintained or used as a point of reference, including the reuse of unique wall hooks and existing glazed mosaic tiles, that although couldn’t be salvaged, inspired the palette direction for the five individual wet areas.

The new midcentury inspired staircase is a prominent feature within the home that defines the entry foyer (a previously vacuous space) and maintains views through to the bar and coastal aspect beyond. The existing kitchen, dining and living areas were maintained to the first floor level maximizing the coastal aspect and adjacent spacious terrace. 

The existing ground floor was reimagined, through the introduction of a new stair and buffet joinery, into a new versatile second living area for the growing family. The bar provides a relaxed entertainment area, incorporating a high benchtop and operable window that maximizes views and cultivates a connection with the Portsea Pier.

Existing furniture pieces, ornaments and art (Fisherman’s Beach’ By Sally Joubert that takes pride of place in the first floor living room) are curated alongside a selection of predominantly vintage and some new pieces ensuring that a home is created with a strong sense of nostalgia and soul.

Midcentury classics including two original Semi Pendants feature in both the ground floor and first floor dining areas, accompanied by the Lampe De Marseille wall lamp by Le Corbusier, The Hans J. Wegner Circle Chair, Panton Chair and Entre 1B Oak bedside tables.

The tactile palette consisting of slatted wall panelling, bagged white walls, warm timbers and accents of natural stone (reminiscent of the glistening coastline) work cohesively together to create an unpretentious and modern seaside home.The introduction of crazy paving, articulate an uninterrupted transition from exterior to interior, promoting a sense of continuity between the previously separate environments.

Photographer Sean Fennessy

Innovative and unique to this project was the commitment from our clients and ourselves, as the designers, to cautiously alter the existing home whilst remaining true to, and enhancing the stylistic significance of its midcentury undertone.

The resulting home has now become a sanctuary where our clients can find a shared respite in their beloved beachside property with friends and family.