As far as drives go in Australia, Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of our most famous. It skirts the dramatic coastline for 243 kilometres, past cliffs, famous rock formations and through quaint coastal towns
Now, imagine owning a home that lets you wake up to the region’s beauty every day.
Since 2012, architect Rob Mills and his partner Mikala James and his children have been able to do just that. Mills found the vacant property in Lorne, about 120 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, and designed and built Ocean House as the family’s weekend retreat.
Mills wanted the stunning home, which looks out onto the ocean, to blend in with its surrounds, which includes bushland at the back.
“Co-existing in harmony with nature is a rare luxury, and is an important part of my design ethos,” he tells Broadsheet. “This house is a story of the land, its unique positioning between coast and forest, and the climatic conditions that inform the built outcome.” (By that he means the unforgiving coastal winds and the salty air that blows off the ocean.)
The seven-bedroom home, complete with a rooftop bath and terrace, centres around the open-plan living and kitchen area. It’s the couple’s favourite space – especially when they have friends over and they’re cooking a feast.
Name: Rob Mills
Lives: Between Melbourne and Sydney. Ocean House is his holiday home in Lorne, Victoria.
With: Partner Mikala James and Mills’s children.
Have you made any changes architecturally since you moved in?
I acquired the land and built the home in 2012. Designed as a place to enjoy with friends and family, Ocean House is a bold expression of my design philosophy. The seven-bedroom property can operate as one home or be divided into two acoustically separate dwellings. The design is visually striking, exists as one with its wilderness surrounds and will survive the marine environment for years to come.
What do you love about it?
It’s a weekend retreat that challenges convention and offers an escape from the day-to-day. Coexisting in harmony with nature is a rare luxury and is an important part of my design ethos.
Can you describe the house’s mood?
The power of Ocean House is its connection to the land on which it’s built. It’s a sensory experience with beautiful materials and fabrics that mimic the surrounding environment. The interior is tactile and incorporates neutral fabrics, with stucco on the exterior that feels like velvet and is coloured to match the bark of the trees in the rainforest.
What is the history or context of this house? As a family we have holidayed on the Great Ocean Road for generations. My great-grandfather was the first to holiday there, and it’s a place where my family and I have created many wonderful memories … I acquired the site after we had been renting a beach house close by and I noticed the land had become available. It was a vertical site, so only the naive or ambitious would design on that land. Built on a steep slope with a creek flowing through the land, the site itself was a challenge.
The open-plan kitchen, dining and living area with views of the ocean at the front of the residence to the views of the rainforest behind. The views work in harmony to create a truly exceptional space to cook and entertain … It creates a unique wilderness experience that makes the ocean below and the forest above integral elements. The two personalities work together as one.
Favourite item in the house?
The kitchen bench. We love entertaining, having a glass of wine and all cooking around it.
Favourite homewares store or place to buy art?
Scott Livesey Galleries in Prahran, Melbourne.
“Home Visit” is a Broadsheet series exploring homes across Australia.