REAL HOME: Modernised period-style beach house


Modern design principles transform this pre-1940’s beach house into a contemporary retreat.


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Many period homes have a unique style and character that remains a draw point in the age of McMansions and sprawling Lego Land suburbs. Although well-designed and planned houses are still being built, the fact is that, due to housing demands, hard economic times and a general lack of taste, plenty of suburbs and neighbourhoods end up feeling like a homogenised, characterless residential sprawl.

This is why many choose to renovate existing homes − that have an individual essence sorely lacking in many new homes − rather than build from scratch.

For instance, this project by Riddel Architecture is a beautiful pre-1940s Queensland beach house, bursting with charm and reflecting the care and love its owners feel for it.

Situated on the waterfront in Queensland’s Shorncliffe, the home has spent decades soaking up the sun and sea views, affording a lifestyle that is the envy of many Australians. However, due to the restrictions of its past design, the home remains cold during winter months and has become cramped with the growth of its family. The owners felt it could take better advantage of its enviable positioning, and be adapted to fulfil the needs of their modern lifestyle.

Extensive experience with adaptive reuse of older buildings places the design firm in its area of expertise. They specialise in working with and within the fabric of an existing home and its materials. With this in mind, extensive collaboration between architectural and building teams on previous projects was of enormous benefit. Trust in design focus and reliable construction skills are paramount to creating a positive driving force for any ambitious design project.

With the project team fully focused on its course of action, community response to the project was extremely positive and enabled the team to communicate succinctly with the district’s council, which was wary of changes to the existing form of this treasured piece of architectural history. Special concern was directed towards the future of the multi-gable roof, which created a breathtaking street facing façade that really evoked the character and charm of homes from that era.

Taking this concern into regard, the design of the renovation would be an additional third-storey. Set back from the front of the house, leaving the original character of the home untouched, the new design addresses the desires of the homeowners in dealing with environmental comforts and extra living space that takes advantage of the beachside positioning with a super modern aesthetic.

Cutting into the existing roof structure is an ambitious step, though this provides the foundation and space for the extra addition. Careful consideration ensured the new and old sections of the home did not clash. The modern addition allows the home to exude its original charm while functioning to allow more light and warmth into the home during winter, and allowing more than modest cross-ventilation during summer.

Inspired by the existing materiality of the structure, timber is used throughout the extension; from the structural beams to the new timber floors, they emanate and reflect the defining characteristics that made the home so special in the first place.

The additional storey orients toward both north and south views. It’s spacious enough to contain room for a new master bedroom suite with ensuite, combined studio and sitting room space with outdoor areas. A sleeping loft provides a personal private escape for the owners’ daughter. Access to the new areas is gained via a stair that circulates around a central light-well, which acts as part of the home’s thermal regulation system and also provides space for an interior garden. A delightful design touch is the boisterous colours spilling out from the central light-well, and an artistically imagined alternating tread staircase that gives access to the loft space.

Large glazed windows maximise the internal environmental elements and provide holistic benefits from ample internal sun exposure.

Passive design techniques are used to maximise energy efficient cooling and heating, such as glazing meeting the highest UV standards, insulation baffling for reduced heat loss during winter and heat resistance during summer. Directional orientation and effective design principles, which exploit the sunlight and excellent cross-ventilation, also create an additional level of passive environmental regulation.

The success of this renovation lies within the ability of the extension to expand on the original concept of the home, adding modern design principles and refinement to a fragment of Australian history. The home succeeds in creating a comfortable refuge, catering to the desires of the owners while making exceptional use of its surrounds without compromising the character and relevance the home has to its region.

A dynamic and playful way was found that could unite the separate elements and combine them into a contiguous whole, creating a lasting impression on this beautiful waterfront home that is one of the last remaining examples of its kind along the strip of coast on which it sits.


This project was designed by:

Riddel Architecture

620 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006

Tel: 07 3852 3300




This project was built by:

John Speare Builders

Tel: 07 3869 1711

Licence Number: QBSA Licence No 19930



Bedroom: T & G hardwood, Blackbutt standard grade

Stair: Masonite hardboard

Outdoor: Western Spotted gum, shot edge



Bedroom: MDF board

Stair: MDF board

Outdoor: FC sheeting, timber cover strips, Alucobond

Other: Hoop pine veneer plywood, clear finish with shadow line joints



Cabinetry: Saunders cabinets

Tiles/walls and floor: Stone and Tile Studio, Stafford

Sanitary fixtures: Reece White Stone basins

Taps: Reece

Shower/bath: Reece



Glass: Comfort Plus laminated glass

Automation to shower window: Unique windows

Skylights: Acol Skylights

Frames: Clear anodised aluminium



Roof: Stramit Longspan

Furniture: Parry & Williams, Sandgate

By James Cleland
Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones
From Renovate magazine Vol. 8 No. 6