Herald Sun – Home – March 29, 2014


Words: Tony Fawcett
Photography: Chris Groenhout

A well-designed extension transforms this holiday house into a year-round marvel of modern design.


It’s called a summerhouse but Sue and Alan Harrison got way more than that when they extended outdoors from their 1990s Blairgowrie holiday home a year ago.

This glamorous extension is a space for all seasons, not just summer. When the weather is good, they throw open the cedar doors and shutters to experience the ultimate in indoor/outdoor, flow through the living. And when things get squally, and bitter westerlies and sou’westerlies blow in off the Bass Strait, they simply close up on the windward side to create one of the cosiest indoor/outdoor havens imaginable.

Luckily for Gayfer, his clients – a professional couple with two young children – were as willing to experiment. They needed to maximise the use of the south-facing back garden to incorporate a plunge pool, a shaded lounge space, a dining zone, and a lawn.

Here, with most of modern life’s trappings, from large-screen TV and stereo to a kitchenette including dining area, Caesarstone benches, barbecue, log fire and bar fridge, they have all they desire.

There’s a built-in U-shaped lounge that opens out in certain spots to become a day bed, providing both convenience and visual unity.

Accessed from the house via the regular kitchen and enclosing a tranquil, sheltered courtyard, this spacious home away from holiday home has completely changed the way Sue and Alan live.

“It’s a beautiful area all year,” Alan says. “In winter, the sun is in the courtyard almost all day, and we can close off the main part and use the heaters installed in the ceiling to keep cosy and warm.

“We light the log fire and sit out here and it’s magnificent, a lovely extension of the house. These days, we are here all the time and hardly ever go into the lounge room.”

Says Sue: “it’s great for entertaining. We have a lot of friends who have places down here and it’s good to get together with them and our family, who regularly come to stay.”

With an expanding number of grandchildren, Sue and Alan say the glamorous summerhouse extension, including an enclosed courtyard and spa/pool, has been getting near-constant use.

The couple (Alan is nearly retired and Sue works a few days a week in Melbourne as a nurse) has had a long love affair with Blairgowrie, especially its ruggedly beautiful back beach and clifftop walking tracks.

When they bought this elegant yet reasonably small house after owning another in Blairgowrie for about 16 years, they reasoned a bump up in size was needed.

Their first stop was their son Paul, conveniently a director of landscape company Living Creations. Soon, Mornington Peninsula building company Forster Constructions was involved in the major construction works, and for the outside design Paul recommended talented landscape architect Dan Gayfer.

It’s now a year after completion, and Sue and Alan couldn’t be happier. For Dan it was all about integration, year-round outdoor living, extending lifestyle options and creating a pleasing environment through the use of organic-look materials.

“It had as much to do about the future as now,” Dan says. “With these guys having a constantly growing family it was important they have something they could come down to and virtually live in over summer. So if it’s getting overcrowded with family and kids, they can spill out to here and have their own barbecue and dining table, all they need. It’s really about creating an entirely new living area.”

For Alan, a man who hates being idle, the extension has brought the pleasurable project of re-creating the garden beyond and in full view through the summerhouse’s windows. Today, Alan’s extensive garden has become a highlight of the whole project.

“I’m really enjoying that because it’s given me a lot to do. When we moved in, the house was quite nice but the garden was really just overgrown,” he says. “It was my vision to get the garden back up again. So now that the extension is complete, I’m spending six or seven days a week doing just that… and enjoying it. I think we have broken the back of it now. It’s been a terrific project and now we can make full use of all areas.”


What materials were used

  • Throughout, rustic timber and concrete surfaces have been used freely to give an organic appearance that complements the surrounding Mornington Peninsula landscape.
  • The interior joinery is made from Russian-birch plywood.
  • The exterior white walls feature a retro-look wavy render. (“I’m a big fan of Brazilian mid-century modern architecture that uses really interesting renders like this,” Dan says)
  • Some of the cedar doors and windows have been treated with fire retardant to meet building requirements in the area.
  • The ceiling is lined in spotted-sum-veneered plywood panelling.
  • The feature wall, which is fitted out with a log fire and large-screen TV and stereo, is highlighted in mango-coloured gloss tiles to kick out from the muted palette used elsewhere in the summerhouse.
  • The top and sides of the custom-designed dining table are also of spotted gum.
  • The floor is of ground concrete.
  • The courtyard is paved in black granite, broken up with two grassy circles with trees for summer shade.
  • The timber-decked pool/spa area is fenced with a glass wall.
  • The curved wall at the back of the pool and spa is clad in vertically laid 600mm grey/black porcelain tiles of various widths.
  • An outdoor shower is at one end of the pool.


Design: www.dgfd.com.au
Builders: www.livingcreations.com.au  |  www.forsterconstructions.com.au
Pool: www.enkipools.com   

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