Originally, Mark Gleeson and wife Jenny moved to the surf-coast to follow Gleeson’s passion for surfing. That was in 1982. In 1986 he began designing beach houses for mostly Melbourne clients on Victoria’s West Coast.

No doubt Gleeson’s love and familiarity with the Australian coastal terrain and his belief that the lifestyle and environment is ideal for home and family are what make his coastal designs such a success.

Gleeson’s basic philosophy could be considered quite Australian. Inspired by leading lights such as Gabriel Poole, Glen Murcutt and other contemporary Australian architects, he does not believe we need to borrow design ideas from overseas. Our own architects and designers are creating new designs that ideally suit our climates and locations.

Gleeson’s Australian-inspired philosophy is all about easy living, about ‘creating spaces for today’s lifestyles. In design terms this translates into open living areas, free flowing spaces and clean lines both inside and out.

His beach houses not only complement the specific tastes and the lifestyles of the holiday-makers, but their colours and lines work well with the beautiful coastal surroundings. In many if not most cases Gleeson has found that Carter Holt Harvey wood products like Shadowclad Groove and Texture to be perfect for creating these clean and coastal toned beach houses.

“I have used Shadowclad for over four years now,” Gleeson explains, “and have been really excited with the ‘feel’ and ‘look’ they give my projects.” The structural properties of these products help him attain the open spaces he likes to design and their finished look help to give his projects the appearance of natural timber as well as a coastal feel. He cites some of his best loved projects as examples of the stunning effect that these products helped him to create.

“One of my favourite projects is the house on the Great Ocean Road, a blend of Shadowclad Texture and Zincalume. The final finished look really surprised me. The blend of materials and the blue coastal colours created a great deal of interest. I have had a record number of enquiries about that particular project and the owners still have passers-by knocking on their door two years later.”

A recent house Gleeson designed in Jan Juc is another favourite and again utilises Shadowclad. As he describes it, “For a timber clad home it looks and feels really solid. It has a strong presence on the site and the deep colour selected compliment the Shadowclad sections of the walls.”

The aesthetic features of the homes designed for this rugged coast was not Gleeson’s only concern. As he discovered, there are some design problems specific to coastal projects. The extremes in climate had to be taken into consideration on most projects and other environmental considerations. As the outlooks and views are generally south facing it is important that the designs give the house some northerly orientation in the living areas, being very conscious of using passive solar features in every project to maximise natural sunlight. Shadowclad and Carter Holt Harvey’s structural products enable him to achieve the best of both worlds.

A greater challenge than this proved to be the steepness of many of the sites. “Most coastal sites are undulating,” therefore lightweight structure and ease of construction is an important factor when selecting materials.

Gleeson’s well known Simpson House in Anglesea was designed with high walls of Shadowclad. The site had potential access to stunning views of Pt. Roadknight and the ocean beyond if a specific upper floor could be attained. Having to stay within the Surfcoast Shire’s height limitations the design, incorporating an angled roofline running parallel to the slope of the land at 7.5 m high, managed to achieve the necessary floor level.

“In achieving the desired floor level we needed to construct exceptionally high walls which had to not only look good, but be braced exceptionally well and have a cladding that was easy and time efficient to apply. Shadowclad Groove and Texture covered every criteria,” says Gleeson. The need for solid materials and the structural durability to weather the coastal conditions is always a major consideration during both the design and construction process.

It’s no surprise then that Shadowclad has featured in so many of this bright young designer/builder’s projects. Gleeson continues to use both for their structural capabilities and ease of application which tends to speed up the ‘lock-up ‘ stage of the home. This helps attain the client’s budget of course and as Gleeson explains, “In terms of coverage per square metre it is economical to specify and once painted you can expect years of low maintenance living”.

“I highly recommend Shadowclad, as well as the other Carter Holt Harvey products that are used in framing my projects,” adds Gleeson. And given the success he is enjoying down along the coast where the big breaks are, it would seem that Gleeson’s beach loving clients would recommend him too.