Jeff Umansky is driving with his young family, circa 2019, on a drive along Victoria’s coastline. Location? Somewhere on the Mornington Peninsula. Mood? Ecstatic. The surroundings are an exquisite image of land, sky and sea, with the coastal country town of Balnarring providing context to the visual that is within eyeshot. The 11 Dimensions Architecture founder eventually decides to stop for directions, and makes a mental note. Balnarring Beach. The beaches’ golden sand, black rocks and roseate seaweed would inform the Umansky’s future family home that only lies steps from the beach, and is directly inspired by its locale.
The design approach to the house was one of a democratic nature, with all family members involved in the composition of the dwelling. Moving from a cramped two-bedroom unit, the overarching view of all family members was the need for personal space, but to not lose the feeling of connection amongst one another. Umansky’s work in constructing the floorplan centred around the implementation of two airways for cross ventilation, that created transparency through the house.
One can be sitting in the study and can see through to the open plan living space, similar to the children’s bedrooms, where the kids can easily view the master bedroom down the hallway. Despite the house being of large proportions, the transparency and openness offered by the floorplan ensure that none of the occupants feels isolated within the walls, and the mere viewing of another family member increases the idea of connection throughout the house.
Balnarring Beach House creates an interplay between masculinity and femininity amongst its internal and external features. On the outside, the honest, rugged charcoal cladding that lines the outer shell of the house is contrasted with the rose-pink qualities of the outdoor shower’s tiles and the green hues offered by the flora planted in various corners of the block. The interior plays host to the charcoal timber across the rear wall within the open plan living space, which is contrasted by chalk-white walls and rugs, as well as soft linen window curtains.
This theme rings true throughout the kitchen, with Umansky mirroring the wall cladding within the kitchen cabinetry and colligating it with a white granite benchtop and a curation of small plants. A small nook that encourages the occupants to read is of a similar nature to the outdoor shower, with rose-coloured cushions and a window providing views of the surrounding landscape giving all family members a place to unwind. The bathroom doesn’t juxtapose masculine and feminine features as obviously as other parts of the house, but the charcoal window frames and cream coloured bath and wall tiles carry the theme into the wet areas to carry a congruence of theme throughout all spaces of the house.
Reflecting contemporary principles, all bedrooms are subtly connected to green spaces outside, thanks to Umansky crafting four separate courtyards. The house is broken up by these courtyards, with a private garden at the entrance of the house providing additional privacy for the family and their guests, as well as a place that can be utilised at all times of the day.
Three courtyards placed at the northern, southern and eastern points of Balnarring Beach House are home to intense green settings that change throughout the seasons, making for an intriguing visual in these spaces all year round. Umansky says the courtyards were born from a desire to not create a side of the house that was of a utilitarian quality. In using all of the available space on the block, the architect was able to create a house that is an escape from the hustle and bustle that lies beyond its boundaries.
Citing reassurance from renowned architect Clinton Murray, Umansky has been able to craft a family home that he and his kin can flourish within. The chiaroscuro-esque qualities of light and dark witnessed in both the interior and exterior of the domicile, coupled with the four courtyards and the beach that lies a few steps away from the front door is reason enough for the house to be a truly ideal living space. Umansky’s thoughtful implementation of cross-ventilation and the floorplan itself marries sustainability and personal connection, within a home that exercises intimacy despite the distance.
11 Dimensions Architects
Photography by Christine Francis
This project made the cover of issue #51 of Habitus, the Kitchen and Bathroom special, with its eye-catching pink outdoor shower.