Holiday house draws family from far and wide

Rohan Little's Congo House is oriented to the sun, sympathetic to the environment and family-friendly.Rohan Little’s Congo House is oriented to the sun, sympathetic to the environment and family-friendly. Photo: Michael Nicholson

Is owning a family holiday house one of those aspirations that’s often better in theory than in practice? Does the reality of long drives and weekend traffic and the challenges of co-ordinating and uniting diverse family members often prove more trouble than delight?

For many, yes, undoubtedly – just check the real estate pages, brimming with holiday homes the length of the eastern seaboard, bought with great excitement, loved for a while, and discarded.

Speaking recently with Rohan Little, of Oxide Design, the issue of how to design a successful holiday house comes up, along with a story involving one family compound working successfully on the far south coast. Renovated six years ago, it’s not only drawing three or four generations of family once a month, it’s proving a mecca for extended family and friends.

BRIEF: To turn a 30-year-old, ugly home into a beautiful, ‘‘special” place, one that captures the magic of coastal holidays, and the magical nature of Congo, an out-of-the-way somnolent surfing hamlet on the far south coast.

It must draw family, extended family and friends from far and wide – Perth to Brisbane and beyond.

CHALLENGES: With disarming forthrightness, Rohan describes the original three-bedroom, brick-veneer home as nasty-coloured – its bright orange and sickly green straight off a Neighbours’ set, with a dose of venereal disease thrown in.

Importantly, it missed most opportunities to open to the north and sunlight, to provide harbours for shelter, and maximum aspect.

The site itself was an extreme one, being close to the beach and vulnerable to the full force of the Southern Ocean.  Home to native flora and fauna, the area is of significance to the indigenous people of the south coast. Advice needed to be sought and any building work approved by the local Aboriginal land council.

And, as is commonly the case with holiday homes, the budget was extremely tight.

SOLUTION: Rohan’s solution is very much about providing the right balance of inviting, public family spaces and relaxing, quieter places of shelter and retreat – about offering a variety of opportunities, and indoor/outdoor locations for families to come together and be apart as needed.

Mindful of the counsel of local elders, the fragility of the site and budget, the existing concrete slab and footprint were maintained, with one section only twisted and reoriented to house a north-facing living area.

Equally conscious of the house’s deficiencies, everything bar the laundry and bathroom was removed.

With the need to accommodate up to 15 family and friends, the old single-storey building was replaced with a structure drawing in northern light and southern ocean views fluidly over one to two storeys as appropriate.

Multiple entry and exit points and circulation paths were created into and through the home to ensure occupants could connect when desired or remain detached, allowing families normally living apart to co-exist in the most enjoyable and stress-free of ways.

Article sourced:, words by Trisha Croaker:

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