Tropical retreat is as beautiful as it is practical

Compact: The whole house is only 100 square mtres. Photos: Willem Rethmeier on Bowerbird
Compact: The whole house is only 100 square mtres. Photos: Willem Rethmeier on Bowerbird

Building a beach house on a remote North Queensland island may sound like a dream, but practicalities must come into consideration: it can get very hot and the winds can be cyclonic.

So when Architect Renato D'Ettorre was briefed to create the one-bedroom, 100 square metre property, he addressed the extremes of tropical elements by incorporating glass against wind and rain, and shutters for the heat and humidity.

"The key elements of tropical architecture are light, air and water," Renato said.

Secure: Even when it is closed against the elements, there is still air flow in the house.

Secure: Even when it is closed against the elements, there is still air flow in the house.

"This Beach House is designed with minimum effort to have maximum flexibility to control the three elements with the use of retractable timber shutters and sliding glass doors to shield against the extremes such as intense heat, torrential rains and humidity.

"The timber shutters also provide more resistance to cyclones which gives the owner a piece of mind when not in residence."

To allow for maximum airflow throughout the house, Renato dispensed with solid walls.

"The combination of timber shutters and glass doors can be easily manually adjusted to optimise air flow according to the wind direction, and there is the steeply pitched ceiling capped with a traditional roof ventilator which allows accumulated hot air in the roof space to escape. This, combined with ceiling fans, means air conditioning is not needed," he said.

Welcoming: The timber doors stack back to allow the interiors to blend with the tropical surrounds.

Welcoming: The timber doors stack back to allow the interiors to blend with the tropical surrounds.

When the timber doors are opened, they are stacked back into wall cavities to be totally hidden to allow the timber framed glass doors to take in the beautiful view.

"Virtually the entire structure opens out onto the natural environment allowing the landscape to blend seamlessly with the living spaces including the bedroom and bathroom: an invigorating and healthy exchange between nature and its owners."

Renato said the main objective was to create a comfortable interior.

"The entire interior including the concrete slab is painted white to aid in the physiological perception of white as a cool contrast to exterior heat, while the cool white concrete floor makes walking with bare feet extremely pleasurable, liberating and cooling," he said.

Seamless: Local granite wrap around the concrete base while stone walls ground the structure in its native environment.

Seamless: Local granite wrap around the concrete base while stone walls ground the structure in its native environment.

The materials used in the build are natural and where possible local. Low maintenance hardwood timbers and local granite wrap around the concrete base while stone walls ground the structure in its native environment. The stone was hand-picked from the basalt quarry in Bowen, Queensland.

The large open spaces required the perimeter beams to be constructed from laminated Tasmanian Oak while the rafters were dressed Kwila.

The aim is for the timber and stone to age and eventually blend in with the surrounding tropical landscape.