Toby Johnstone July 21, 2012
Sight lines ... the open timber-covered verandah allows Darren Ritchie's new Kiama beach house to take full advantage of the views. Main photo: Dave Tease.
With the fibro relic gone, a bold standout makes the most of a dream beach spot.
Fifteen years ago, Darren Ritchie spent much of his time cruising around on a yacht off the east coast of Australia. But when he came ashore at Kiama and spied a fibro shack on the beach for $200,000, this soon changed.
''I couldn't understand why no one would want to buy this block,'' he says. ''Everywhere else I'd been up and down the coast was a lot more expensive so I just bought it and thought one day I'll build a nice home on it.''
Ritchie has realised that dream by building a four-bedroom house on the site. But he and his partner, Alexandra, are moving to Sydney and have listed their coastal abode at 44 Gipps Street for $1.45 million.
Long-haul flight attendant Ritchie was on the move a lot after buying at Kiama. He would spend most of his time in Australia down south and there are a few things about the shack he doesn't miss.
''All the windows were really rotted and it was full of asbestos and all that sort of stuff,'' he says. ''The place hadn't had much done to it in 100 years.''
Ritchie considered the renovation path but simply couldn't find any redeeming features. So he approached Blair Mullins, from Art House Building Design, and went to Kiama Council with a plan. The neighbours were not impressed.
Their problem was that the property blocked the view - from their garage. ''It was a bit ridiculous,'' Ritchie says. ''They put in a lot of submissions to council, fought … the whole project.'' That slowed things down, but the council finally gave the green light and after two years of planning, building began.
Ritchie had done his maths and budgeted about $2000-$2500 a square metre. Most project homes cost about $1500 a square metre and he wanted to do better than that. With builder friend Jason Kearns on board, the house started coming together. ''I was on site every day when I was home,'' he says.
''Before I became a flight attendant I was a plumber by trade, so I just treated it like it was a job.''
Ritchie was able to come in on budget - about $2500 a square metre - so the new house ended up costing just over $600,000. ''We had to bring it in on budget,'' he says. ''We simply couldn't afford to let it blow out.''
Shack no more
If you had driven down Gipps Street a couple of years ago, Ritchie's shack would have blended in with all the other fibro cottages on the south coast. Now it's hard to miss.
The bold design ensures that you'll never forget that you're by the ocean. All but the media room and the fourth bedroom have dramatic views over Bombo beach. The most striking feature is the timber-covered verandah, angled so it acts as a theatre for taking in the sunrise and sunset.
Walking through the open-plan first floor, it's apparent this isn't your average beach house. The two-sided Jetmaster fireplace, the CaesarStone kitchen with European appliances and the designer bathrooms make it hard to imagine someone having only a short holiday here.
But for Ritchie, it's time to leave his seaside home. ''My partner has a new job in Sydney, so we are going to head up there and live in the big smoke for a while,'' he says.
''But we'll return back south at some stage. That [region] will always be my home.''
In a nutshell
Time Two years planning/council, one year build.
Land size 245 sq m.
Internal size 250 sq m.
Home designer Blair Mullins, Art House Designs, 4443 7999.
Builder Jason Kearns, 0408 671 885.
The solar-passive design means that morning sun comes through the front and in the afternoon it warms the house through the back windows and doors. In summer, the north-east breeze cools the house.
LED lighting and solar-powered garden lights.
Ritchie says: ''What I love about it is that I'm in shorts and T-shirts all year round. We don't have to put the heater on and when you live south of Sydney that's just unheard of.''
Ritchie says: ''We stuck to the plan from the get-go and if you want to bring it in within budget that's what you've got to do.''
What went right
The house came in on budget.
What went wrong
The neighbours submitted numerous objections to council.