A finely crafted timber box hovering over an Australian beach shack

Dorman House is a finely crafted timber box, independently constructed by Austin Maynard Architects to hover over an existing beach shack in Lorne, Victoria. In contrast to the neighbours, it has been designed to weather, to go grey, to age, and sink back into the landscape, back into the bush instead of being demolished. ‘We refused to have yet another Great Ocean Road shack sacrificed and replaced with a McMansion. We refused to be part of the slow erosion of the Great Ocean Road’s collective cultural memory.’ – Austin Maynard Architects

 The elevated extension sits on top of a heavy timber structure and comprises a kitchen, dining and living room, accessed via a spiral staircase. Polycarbonate was used as a lightweight cladding to infill the structure below, creating a useable space without adding mass that would dominate the original property. The new living space does not protrude forward over the ridge-line of the old house and avoids dominating the original shack unnecessarily.

Whilst the old kitchen was transformed into a second bathroom and laundry, the original beach shack remains mostly unchanged. It was tidied up and repainted, so that the charm and character of the post war shack was retained.



Internally lined with Silvertop Ash, it’s a space that exudes character and responds to the seasonal changes and hours of the day.  The lighting inside is very evocative, controlled so the owners can work, or prepare a meal, without flooding the space with light and compromising the view. Full height windows on the northern side of the living space slide open to allow in the sea breezes. The screening, required in bush fire zones to stop fire embers, acts as a balustrade.

The undercroft of the new living space is a simple infill of the heavy timber structure that holds the living space high up in the view. The architects have lined the space with polycarbonate so that an abundance of filter light fills the room. Although it was originally envisaged as a rumpus room, the owners loved it so much that they wanted it as their bedroom. Heavy curtains and huge sliding doors were added so that the space could have as much light and openness as they wanted.

Most of the glass faces north and all windows are double glazed with thermally separated frames. There is a hood above the northern windows to shield the summer sun yet still achieve optimal passive solar gain in winter. Along with active management of shade and passive ventilation, demands on mechanical heating and cooling are drastically reduced. The old timber decking was recycled and re-used internally.  A large water tank is in place, used to flush toilets and water the garden. Where possible, local trades, materials and fittings were sourced.

‘In all, the most sustainable factor of this project is that we retained the existing shack. It is irrelevant how sustainable you make a new house if you knock down an existing structure. Even if you have a 9 star home, the carbon debt in the demolished house takes many decades to repay.’ – Austin Maynard Architects




Info and images courtesy of Austin Maynard Architects

Photography is by Peter Bennetts

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