HOME AND AWAY
Australian House & Garden Magazine|January 2022
This versatile retreat on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula gives its lucky residents the best of both coastal and city living.
Chris Pearson
When I am home, I never want to leave,” says Emily Barrett, owner of this haven in Sorrento, Victoria. And, with the Moonah trees framed by floor-to-ceiling windows and the sun streaming across the recycled-brick walls and concrete floors, it’s easy to see why. Meanwhile, the crashing of the breakers on the shore – less than 500 meters away – provides a soothing soundtrack to the rituals of family life. “Normally, you hear just the hum of the waves, but, in a swell, they are thunderous and then this feels so homely.”

The coastal retreat is infused with that special something Emily can’t quite put her finger on. Perhaps it was because her husband, builder James Clarebrough, constructed it brick by brick for the couple and their sons, Archie, now 15, and Milo, 12. There’s something quite primal about building a home for one’s family. “James did an amazing job building the home, putting a roof over our heads,” she says. “Care and love exude from every brick and nail.” Equally hands-on, Emily designed and planted the garden herself.

When the couple bought the property in 2015, it was home to a humble two-bedroom fibro bungalow. But the location, within cooee of Back Beach, where both Emily and James enjoyed childhood holidays, enticed them to make a permanent move to the area from their home in inner Melbourne. They lived in the bungalow as it was for two years – time well used, as it gave them the lie of the land, including the sun’s movements throughout the day and the seasons – then demolished it in preparation for a complete rebuild. After visiting the family beach house of prominent architect Rachel Nolan a few years earlier, the couple already knew the look they wanted.

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