Sue and James O’Sullivan were thinking about selling their block of land just back from the beach on the mid North Coast.
They couldn’t decide what to do with it, that was until they had friends stay in Rachel Bourne and Shane Blue’s holiday house half an hour down the coast.
The architects’ house – featured in Habitus 05 – in Seal Rocks is essentially the shape of a square donut, with rooms strung around a central timber deck and 4 breezeways providing covered outdoor space, 2 of which have hammocks, the perfect spot to head to with a book to chill out.
“My wife and I loved that house when we saw it,” James says. “We both fell in love with the concept and we asked him to come and look at our block.”
Blue says as soon as he visited the couple’s land he knew using their own courtyard house as a prototype would work. The site was a flat 1-acre block, hidden from the street by a stand of paperbarks and a 5-minute walk from the beach, so no ocean outlook.
“They wanted something like our house but more luxurious with a few changes,” Shane recalls.
Bourne and Blue designed their own house with a deliberate informality, to deliver themselves a quasi-camping experience.
James and Sue wanted a notch more comfort and space; they wanted to be able to sleep their own family of 5 plus another. They also wanted a covered walkway, so they could move around the house when it was raining without getting wet. There was another significant addition, one which ended up giving the weekender its own distinct character.
James recalls how Shane invited himself and the builder to go through his and Rachel’s Seal Rocks house and 4 other houses in the same street. James says in one of them, he noticed a mini orb screen.
It was rudimentary but he liked it and the idea gained momentum when he and Sue went to India, where they saw carved marble screens in the Red Fort.
So Shane used perforated mini orb screens throughout the Diamond Beach house. They act as sliding screens on the perimeter of breezeways and to lock down the house from its courtyard.
“It also gives them more options in the courtyard,” Blue says. “They can shut them down on hot days or block out rain. Spatially they really change the house as well.”
Like all houses, the weekender went through a test of sorts late last year.
“We had my fathers 80th and we had about 30 people,” James recounts. “There was plenty of room indoors for preparing food and watching cricket, and we had enough room in the breezeway for two tables [to seat everyone] and we could adjust the screens for sun and still get a cool breeze. It was perfect.”
Bourne + Blue
Photography by Simon Whitbread