Whale Beach House
This hilltop site with iconic ocean, headland and treetop views in all directions was clearly unique. The bones of the existing horseshoe shaped mid century italianate villa were sound, but to meet the brief for a flexible family home accommodating between 2 and 10 people at any time, a trusting client and some clever design was required.
Whale Beach NSW
Dom Bennett
Simon Wood

Perched on the top of an escarpment, with 270-degree views over Pittwater, is what appears to be a new two-storey contemporary home.However, this place, a 45-minute drive from Sydney and used as a permanent home, is in fact a combination of the past and a more recent first-floor addition.


Originally a 1950s Italianate concrete house that turned in on itself rather than embraced the views of the Pacific Ocean to the east,there was a mismatch between the house, the location and the generous 900-square-metre site. Built by a family who ran a concrete business, it was even difficult locating the front door. While the owners, a couple with adult children and grandchildren, were looking for a larger and more contemporary home (approximately 400 square metres), they, along with Bennett Murada Architects, could see the value in retaining the concrete house, with the opportunity to make adjustments to the U-shaped floor plan.

Pivotal to the couple’s brief was to create accommodation for their children and grandchildren, with each family occupying part of the U-shaped wing (on opposite sides of the internal courtyard). And what was previously an awkward lobby that didn’t really have a front door (previous access was from via the garage) is now a lounge area and a new stairwell.

So, the bones of the 1950s house were retained, with the ‘skin’ re-rendered (formerly stuccoed) and with timber and zinc denoting the new first floor. Rather than coming through the garage, the owners and their daughters enter through a glazed façade, with the parents often heading to the first floor, treated like a self-contained apartment – a main bedroom, a generous walk-in dressing area, an ensuite, together with a kitchen, dining and living areas. Framed by glass and benefiting from a void that connects to the living area below, this light-filled sanctuary also has a wrap-around terrace, outdoor seating areas and unimpeded views of the surf beach below. The first floor’s raked floating ceiling, with its celestial windows, also bring the sky and change in the weather, considerably closer.


This project evolved from the start of the design process, with the house initially being seen as a weekender and changing to become a permanent home, with children and grandchildren often visiting on weekends. Asa result, some of the original finishes were upgraded, including the fine steel-plated staircase with its timber treads that ‘skim’ the double-height glazing of the front façade. And unlike the previous house, there’s now a sense of arrival, clearly articulated spaces and, importantly, a strong connection with its context.

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