Poles Apart

Design / Life

Middleton Beach, with swagger. Claire Hanson finds a seaside beach house that is much more than sedate, composed comfort.

In just a few short leafy streets back from the Great Southern’s most celebrated beach sits Albany’s dress circle; reserved and aloof. Not known for its architectural prowess, Middleton Beach is a suburb of contrasts; of post-modern mansions rising proudly, looming alongside formerly unloved seaside cottages now undergoing gentrification. The along comes Grace with her award-winning, architect-designed home, injecting some much-needed modernist shimmy and strut to the polite, if lacklustre, beachside boulevards.

It’s a collision of real estate gold: Porongurup Ranges in the distance, pristine coast to the south and east, leafy neighbourhood park across the road, and Albany’s doyenne of coffee shops mere metres away. Middleton Beach is an innocuous enclave, but its top end saw a plot twist recently with the addition of a seaside residence that is decidedly unpretentious and relaxed.

Project Brief

While Grace Schlager of H+H Architects briefed a modern family beach house, there’s little that’s standard about this project. More than anything, the site, located within walking distance of the beach with ocean views, dictated the design. Flexibility was key, allowing for a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle.

Aesthetic Requirements

Grace says the beach house aesthetic of surrounding homes determined the design, with a modern take. This resulted in the use of black weatherboard, as well as the employment of textured materials, such as timber and recycled brick. The house has ocean views from each of its four levels and large deck areas to the north looking over Eyre Park and the beach.

Designed by Grace and built by her father and brother’s building company, Schlager Group, the residence offers outstanding features, including large floor to ceiling windows in the lounge room that allow for a tree-top view of the ocean. Recycled brick to the garage is a feature, creating an interesting streetscape perspective at odds with its neighbours.

A Steep Site

Grace’s careful design and the steep site resulted in a home not overbearing, but with distinctive street presence and height that enabled a celebration of majestic views. “The site allowed the house to be set over four split levels, while only appearing to be a two level home from the street,” she explains.

Built as a pole home, the site required minimal retaining.  A pole house construction method was really the only choice, says Grace, who wanted the house to work with the site rather than to change its natural contours. This meant the bespoke design could take an interesting form, creating separate levels for different living areas. Bedrooms are located on the ground level; entry, laundry and garage are on the first level; dining, living and kitchen are on the second; and the master bedroom and study, on the highest level.


An important feature of the site, upon purchase, was good orientation, allowing natural light into the home. Double glazed windows, heavily insulated walls and floors and recycled materials feature throughout. The house requires neither air conditioning nor heating, other than a fireplace, staying at a relatively constant temperature throughout the year. Floors are fibre cement panels, which create a polished concrete appearance, taking in warmth throughout the day in winter, and retaining a cool temperature during warmer months.

Award-winning Project

Grace’s house won two awards at the Great Southern Master Builder’s Awards: Excellence in Construction on a Challenging Lot Residential; and Excellence in Cabinet Making.