Embracing Nature in an Architectural Hideaway

  • Sydney-based architecture firm Polly Harbison Design create a zen-like retreat that is equally commanding as it is restrained. Surrounded by bushland, the home is majestic in manner yet sympathetic to its natural surroundings.

    Tasked with designing a couple’s weekend hideaway, Polly Harbison Design responded with a bespoke and creative solution. Pearl Beach House is a monumental and sculptural form tucked away in the bushland around Pearl Beach, New South Wales. Intrinsically connected to its natural surrounds, the design is sensitive to its fire-prone environment.

    Produced in partnership with Fisher & Paykel

    Blackbutt bespoke timber cabinetry houses the Fisher & Paykel integrated fridge freezer.

    Upon entry, the Pearl Beach House immediately feels immersed in nature, away from the hustle of nearby Pearl Beach village. Encased in a concrete structure, with a high elevation echoing the surrounding forest canopy, Pearl Beach House takes the homeowners on a surprising journey into the bush. 

    Strategically located windows frame views of the Burrawang scrubby woodland, rainforest species and ancient grass trees, gently swaying and changing, like moving art. Perforated brickwork captures snippets of blue skies and bush while creating ‘shadow play’ as the sun moves throughout the day. Outside, a mix of open-air and covered spaces offers protection from the elements as well as private spaces to bask in the warm sunshine. 

    With bushland on three sides of the home, a combination of materiality including flame-zone rated windows, off-form concrete and masonry provides fire protection.

    Internally, concrete floors, brick masonry, muted grey stone tiles and recycled timber feature throughout. Architect and principal Polly Harbison says the material palette is purposefully pared back to bring the outside in and allow the adjacent bushland to remain the focus. “The material palette is deliberately very homogeneous and calm, in direct contrast to the rich greens and reds of the bush,” Polly Harbison says.

    “Fisher & Paykel appliances were specified for their seamless integration. Allowing the home to achieve a minimalist aesthetic without compromising on functionality.”


    – Polly Harbison

    Polished concrete underfoot leads to custom stone benchtops and splashbacks in the open plan kitchen, accented with blackbutt timber joinery and shelving. A single Highline pendant floats above the main island bench in harmony with the refined, geometric design. Fisher & Paykel appliances were specified for their seamless integration, allowing the home to achieve a minimalist aesthetic without compromising on functionality,” Polly says.

    A sleek induction cooktop meets the need for understated design, as does the integrated refrigerator, which disappears behind timber cabinetry, just as the Fisher & Paykel Double DishDrawer dishwasher. Polly reflects, “The home needed to be functional when the owners are enjoying it, but also able to cope with the additional demands when friends and family visit. In addition, the dishwasher drawer combination facilitates flexibility with its energy and water consumption efficiencies.”

    A mixture of off-form concrete, brick masonry and stone tiles provide fire protection in the Pearl Beach bushland. The bedroom features the Vitra Akari 1A.

    The secluded outdoor shower features a copper shower rose and exposed pipe with sleek grey tumbled mosaic tiles.

    The raw aesthetic continues throughout the private spaces. Timber flooring adds to the ‘earthy feel’ within the bedrooms, with full-length windows taking full advantage of the landscape beyond. Indoor and outdoor bathrooms adorned with grey mosaic tiles mirror the same tonality as the common spaces. “With such a homogenous colour palette, texture and the play of light is critical for all surfaces. For this reason, concrete render is used, even on the ceilings, in place of paint,” Polly says.

    Testament to Polly’s design practice which is ‘committed to creating sophisticated and elegantly resolved architecture’, Polly says her biggest reward is happy clients. Sharing the homeowner’s words as they reflect on their new sanctuary, she says they describe the ‘everyday’ being elevated as they walk through the spaces and experience variations in light, mood and texture. “It is impossible not to smile when bathing outdoors; in the elements. We feel part of what is around us.” 

    For texture and tone, bedroom walls and ceilings are wrapped in concrete render in place of paint.

    A Brodware shower rose and wall mixers

    “The material palette is deliberately very homogeneous and calm, in direct contrast to the rich greens and reds of the bush.”


    – Polly Harbison

    Mottled green and black Lindsay Wherrett handmade basins nod to bushland outdoors. Timber benchtops and Brodware weathered organic brass tapware add to the organic colour palette.

    Pearl Beach by Polly Harbison Design

    Perforated brickwork provides contrast externally, as well as light and shadow play inside.

    A masonry staircase leads to the main entrance of Pearl Beach House.

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