A Brisbane family has created a long dreamed of beach shack at the sleepy seaside village of Fingal Head.
Fingal Head, a sleepy seaside village at the mouth of the Tweed River in northern New South Wales, is famous for its 'Fingal' burgers and Fingal Head and Dreamtime surf beaches, which lie respectively to the north and south of the wind-breaking headland.
It was while on a surf-and-burger spree from Brisbane in 2005 that Rowan Churchill and Hannah Cutts discovered a little pocket of sunshine – a property just 200 metres back from the beach and the same distance from the river behind. “We were driving past on the way to the beach when we spotted the vacant block,” says Rowan. They approached the owner and struck a deal, then asked architect Paul Curran of PUSH, who had renovated Hannah's city office, to assist with the design of the home.
“We decided early on that the house wasn't to be lived in permanently but would be a part-time beach shack, which really freed up the brief and got to the point,” says Rowan. “Think flash camping, but with airconditioning, a dishwasher and coffee machine!”
The couple wanted a place that could comfortably accommodate two families while allowing everyone some space. To accomplish this they wanted two large bedrooms and a third that could fit bunk beds for the children. They also wanted two toilets and a living space large enough for get-togethers.
To meet the brief, Paul designed a pavilion-style home with a central breezeway that connects a series of bathroom pavilions on one side to three bedrooms and an open-plan kitchen/dining/living area on the other.
“The breezeway means that every time you move between the pavilions you experience the elements,” says Paul. “As soon as you wake up you're in tune with the day, which is a nice thing for a beach house to do.”
Rowan, an avid gardener, created a lush garden off the lawn in front of the living pavilion. The couple's sons, Oliver, seven, and Lewis, four, take great delight in this area as well as the outdoor shower that helps deal with sandy feet and salty bodies before they hit the verandah. “The landscaping was as important as the build in helping to create an enclosed, beachy space,” says Hannah.
As a graphic artist with an eye for the unexpected, Hannah skilfully blended bold colour and art with an assortment of op-shop finds and family heirlooms. For example, the orange used in the kitchen splashback and sprayed on the outdoor dining chairs was inspired by fishing-tackle signs that hang in the kitchen – bought by the couple from a bait shop years ago and always destined for their future beach house. The choice of a muted green exterior paint completes the connection between inside and out.
Despite a tight budget and ordinary suburban block, the inspired idea of a breezeway and tropical landscaping has delivered a holiday home that is close to life's simple but superlative pleasures – Fingal burgers and great surfing.
Architects: PUSH, Fortitude Valley, Queensland; (07) 3252 0949.
Holidays revolve around the kitchen island bench, the strip of grass where the children run riot and, of course, the beach. “We all surf, Lewis on his boogie board and Ollie can make turns now. He can't swim properly but he can surf!” says Hannah. Dinner can stretch from the kitchen bench to the outside dining table with the doors opened up and kids and adults everywhere.