Cre­at­ing a sense of being in a remote location.

Pearl Beach is one of those beach­es that’s fig­u­ra­tive­ly a pearl’ along Sydney’s north­ern coastline.

Prop­er­ties rarely become avail­able because of the lim­i­ta­tions imposed by its nat­ur­al bor­ders — the rugged topog­ra­phy to the west, nation­al park to the north and south and ocean shores to the east. Beach-side homes are even rar­er to find. The own­ers of this beach house site were for­tu­nate to find a dilap­i­dat­ed shack on 650 square metres of land, offer­ing not only views of the nation­al park, but also the Pacif­ic Ocean from an ele­va­tion a metre above the beach, the back lawn merg­ing into the sand dune.

The house was designed for a pro­fes­sion­al cou­ple based in Syd­ney with who’d seen a num­ber of hous­es pre­vi­ous­ly designed by Lipp­mann. They want­ed a beach house, rather than an urban abode, that was casu­al, robust and low main­te­nance,” says archi­tect Ed Lipp­mann. To the north was a breath­tak­ing nat­ur­al escarp­ment while to the east was the unim­ped­ed water views. I want­ed to cre­ate a sense of being total­ly enveloped in this unique loca­tion, cre­at­ing an entire­ly pri­vate enclave,” says Lipp­mann. So, from the street, as well as on the ele­va­tions bor­der­ing the neigh­bours, there are few, if any, win­dows, with fibre cement walls evoca­tive of the Aus­tralian beach house vernacular.

Lipp­mann looked to a court­yard mod­el for the Pearl Beach house, cre­at­ing a more com­plex and lay­ered series of spaces com­pared to many of his pre­vi­ous res­i­den­tial projects.

The entry sequence, for exam­ple, doesn’t reveal the 180-degree ocean view too quick­ly. Instead the move­ment through the house is pri­ma­ry — a vestibule with a lou­vred glass roof that leads to two guest bed­rooms or, alter­na­tive­ly, to an inter­nal court­yard with the open sky and rugged sur­round­ing hill­tops as the main vista. Framed by exposed steel beams, the idea was to pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty to add a retractable awning down the track. It’s a windy loca­tion so it was also impor­tant to pro­vide a refuge, a pro­tect­ed out­door area.”

The jour­ney ter­mi­nates at the expan­sive open plan kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing area, ori­en­tat­ed to the east and the beach, accessed through large slid­ing doors to a tim­ber decked ter­race. And while there are no walls in the open plan space, the lounge is artic­u­lat­ed by a raised ceil­ing four metres high, framed by high­light win­dows to increase nat­ur­al light and ven­ti­la­tion. The kitchen is aus­tere, prac­ti­cal and robust with a bank of polyurethane join­ery, com­ple­ment­ed by stain­less steel bench­es and splash­back. A deep bur­gundy-coloured mar­ble, used for the island bench is also used for the din­ing table, designed by Lippmann.

As with a num­ber of homes and pub­lic build­ings designed by Lipp­mann in soft reac­tive soils, this house is firm­ly anchored in sand by ten-metre deep con­crete piles with a light­weight steel frame above resist­ing severe coastal ero­sion quite apart from the usu­al dead and live build­ing loads.

The client was in the build­ing indus­try and under­stood the need for secur­ing the house struc­tural­ly, and the poten­tial cor­ro­sion of steel in salt air and sea spray,” says Lipp­mann. In almost sig­na­ture style, the main steel struc­ture was man­u­fac­tured off site with a high-qual­i­ty paint spec­i­fi­ca­tion and bolt­ed togeth­er on site like a Mec­ca­no. The raked cor­ru­gat­ed steel roof, ele­vat­ed to the north alludes to the sim­ple beach hous­es of the past. This too has a heavy-duty pro­tec­tive steel coat­ing spec­i­fied to resist intense cor­ro­sion in salt spray.

In con­trast to the sim­ple and robust mate­ri­als used to con­struct the shell, the inte­ri­or fea­tures a gen­er­ous appli­ca­tion of tim­ber, includ­ing black­butt for the floors in the kitchen and liv­ing areas, togeth­er with ply­wood join­ery that extends from the liv­ing area into the court­yard. The per­fo­rat­ed ceil­ing in the liv­ing area adds a tac­tile lay­er, as well as address­ing acoustics. Slat­ted tim­ber also appears on the walls of the liv­ing area and court­yard to add tex­ture and warmth.

Lipp­mann was con­scious of the sight lines from the main bed­room, ensuite and study locat­ed on the first floor. Over­look­ing a grav­elled roof, there’s a sense of being in a con­sid­er­ably more remote loca­tion. You could say this house is more spa­tial­ly com­plex than some of the pre­vi­ous hous­es, giv­en that they are often more iso­lat­ed,” says Lipp­mann, who, when faced with a poten­tial view into a neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ty from the guest bed­room, opt­ed for a low posi­tioned win­dow that focus­es instead on a land­scaped gar­den bed below floor level.

Colour is used spar­ing­ly in this house (with the excep­tion of a ver­mil­ion in the alcove wall in the main bed­room). The extra­or­di­nary sur­round­ing land­scape pro­vides a beau­ti­ful range of colours from the ocean to the rocks and veg­e­ta­tion which are this place” adds Lippmann.

By Stephen Crafti


  • 2007 Best Res­i­den­tial Design
    Lon­don Inter­na­tion­al Cre­ative Competition

Project details

  • Loca­tion
    Pearl Beach, NSW
  • Key con­sul­tants
  • Builder
    Les Moore Projects
  • Pho­tog­ra­phy
    Willem Reth­meier