Reviving Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club

7 October 2022
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As construction for Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club approaches completion, Associate Richard Healy and Interior Designer Erin Uphill share how the design works to celebrate the Club’s history, while elevating and expanding the hospitality offering.

Sorrento Couta Boat Sailing Club.

The Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club is a longstanding members club with a rich history. The building itself – located in a premier spot on the peninsula – no longer provided the needed space for the Club’s administration team, boat workshop, training facilities, but also the hospitality venue comprising a kiosk, restaurant and bar.

Carr worked closely with the Club to create a design that addressed all their current and future needs, from creating extra space for increased patronage to a seamless operational and member experience. Richard Healy and Erin Uphill explain more.


What was the inspiration behind the design approach?

Richard: From the beginning we looked to find a healthy tension between the traditional and the new aspects of the Club. Retaining and celebrating the Club’s history and Couta Boat craftsmanship, complemented with efficient and contemporary design elements. Inspiring the design direction, the balance between old and new will carry the Club’s tradition on, creating a foundation for the next generation of members to enjoy.

Erin: The club’s advantageous beach-front location in Sorrento was the foundation for much of the design inspiration. This included creating a modernised space for the Club’s members during the summer peak season. From designing glazing that opens and peels back on warm days, to extending the floorplate to include an additional bar to the western deck, plus refining and improving the beach kiosk, Coutas.

As a hospitality destination in Sorrento, what considerations have driven the design?

Richard: The hospitality offering needed to work across a range of demographics, times of day and seasons. Coutas, the beach-front kiosk, offers space for families, swimmers and sailors coming straight off the beach; while the first-floor dining room and members lounge is a sophisticated space for a sit-down meal or socialising in the evening. The western deck bar is suited to the warm summer months, while the fire in the members’ lounge creates a warm and intimate space in winter.

Erin: Given the calibre of Sorrento’s renown hospitality scene, the Club was conscious to elevate its food and beverage offering for its members. This meant bringing the design language and facilities up to contemporary standards. Throughout this process, Carr were heavily involved in all aspects of the design direction, from the bar joinery to furniture selection, right down to the small details like staff uniforms and crockery, providing a unified and cohesive design language.

Now supported with a 30% larger kitchen, the restaurant will be able to function more efficiently throughout the whole year.

The extensive upgrades and extra space Carr has designed for the Club is going to be great – a kitchen 30% larger, a new preparation kitchen for Coutas, increased beer taps, larger and modernised offices for the management team, plus an increased footprint overall. These design changes will enable seamless and efficient improvements to the Club’s daily management and operations of our staff and members.”

Henry Dyer
CEO, Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club
The new western deck bar provides more space for patrons and an improved operations experience for staff.

How have you worked with kitchen designers and other hospitality specialists on the project?

Richard: Curating and displaying the Club’s historic sailing and member memorabilia and artworks, including the giant barracuda donated by the Commonwealth Games, was a key part of the interior design brief. This saw us coordinating with local stone mason artisans and design specialists to create dedicated areas, from display cabinets to plinths and hanging walls. For this process we collaborated with graphic designers, Sardine, lighting specialists, EOS Lighting, and custom joiners, Jensen & Row.

Erin: I found this to be a really interesting and engaging process. Working closely with our joinery specialists, Richard and I were motivated to constantly push the operations of the Club’s kitchen, bar and servery spaces. We regularly questioned how we could improve design details to improve functionality and the aesthetics.

I’m particularly looking forward to sitting down to my first beer on the newly extended deck and watching the sun go down over the bay. Looking out across the water at the wooden boats and jetty, it’s arguably one of the best views on the peninsula!”

Rollo Wright
Head of Infrastructure Committee, Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club
Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club.

What are you most looking forward to seeing when the project is completed?

Richard: The Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club is an iconic building with strong community connections. The ability to reposition it for the next 20 years to enable it to continue as a place where friends and families come together is a privilege. I’m looking forward to seeing how the beautiful and sophisticated restoration stands the test of time.

Erin: I feel very honoured to have worked on such a rare project in this beautiful area of Victoria. From the beginning, we were incredibly conscious to ensure the design remained understated and simple in detailing to celebrate the views and overall site, so it will be wonderful to see how the finished building works in symbiosis in the wider context. I’m eager to experience how the interior and exterior spaces melt into the landscape and how this relationship between built and nature come to life.


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