On a gentle rise looking toward the distant Victorian coastline sits a timber-clad building, clearly contemporary yet so thoughtfully designed that it resonates in tune with its natural setting.
While the elevations are consistent, calling to mind the unmistakable silhouette of a rural barn, the project by Tom Robertson Architects actually consists of two pavilions that mirror each other, joined by a central breezeway. Often hosting three generations of one family, the home is designed to provide open spaces for them to gather, balanced with private spaces of retreat. While functionality was prioritised by the clients, the high-quality materials and restrained palette create a home that is also simple and elegant. Combining functionality with elegance, contemporary architecture with respect for the setting and managing the need for both social and private spaces, the project is a delicate balancing act that manages to distill the best of every element.
The land had been in the clients’ family for decades, once occupied by a 1960s prefabricated shack that was the setting for many family gatherings and holidays. Over the years as the extended family grew so did the need for a new home. Starting again from scratch gave them the chance to deeply consider all aspects of the design. Situated on an area of regenerated farmland with beautiful views to the cost, the new design focuses on capturing the views from every room and connecting the house with the environment.
Locally sourced hardwood timber cladding is used externally; Tom explains the materiality of the timber was important. ‘It’s a nice soft palette that responds to its context. In the rural and coastal setting, we liked that it will evolve. We spent a lot of time on the proportions on the elevations, which resonate with the local vernacular, like the traditional barn. It feels appropriate for the area’. The proportion of the eaves was also a key part of the design, and the architects put great attention into modelling the shadows cast by the eaves during each season to ensure maximum sun was gained in winter while shading the interior during the hot Victorian summer. Along with the capturing the views, all the living spaces are also designed to capture the cooling breezes, creating a home that maximises passive heating and cooling throughout the year.
Internally, a lot of thought was put into creating floor plans and spaces that could accommodate large groups of people at a time. ‘With so many people of all ages to take into account’, says Tom, ‘we had to hone in on how the pavilions function’. They settled on a design that was built around a central living and kitchen space, with bedrooms to each end, allowing parents and kids to occupy one end, while grandparents had their own retreat at the other. The spaces are intentionally flexible, however, so if a large group is entertaining they can comfortably occupy a large proportion of the house, closing off from the rest with large sliding doors.
The breezeway joining the pavilions creates a social outdoor space to come together, and the central kitchen and living area is the heart of the house. With children of all ages in the family, the clients were keen to use robust, functional materials. They were also deeply involved in the kitchen design, ensuring the kitchen functioned in a way that suited them personally. From the space between the benches accommodating two people at any one time to bench height that is suitable for feeding the children, each key element of the kitchen is designed around the clients’ way of using the space.
As the heart of the house, the interior design of the kitchen and living area is not only functional in a practical sense, but also functions aesthetically to create a welcoming, inviting space. A bulkhead over the kitchen creates cosiness, as does the timber cladding to the living area ceiling. While the high ceilings in the living area make sure it feels open and spacious, continuing the timber cladding inside brings in the softness and warmth of the timber, contrasted with the white walls and polished concrete floors. An internal brick wall behind the exposed wood fire also creates a subtle textural change, giving relief from the starkness of white plasterboard and grounding the room around the fire.
The materials, palette, and furnishings of the interior are intentionally simple and elegant, creating a subtle atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Shelving and storage are inbuilt for continuity, with a low concrete shelf serving as a hearth for the fireplace, a decorative shelf for art and books, and an area for audiovisual equipment. In keeping with the elegant interior design, the television and audio are minimalist and subtle, with a focus on beautiful materials and the highest quality and performance.
For a home that prioritises functionality as well as aesthetics, the audiovisual in the living space needed to be not only incredibly elegant but also deliverunparalleled sound quality. All audio is by Bose; a Lifestyle 650 home entertainment system is the perfect audio system for such uncompromising clients, offering an ideal combination of slim, elegant design and big sound for such small speakers. The polished glass console and finely milled aluminum speaker housing harmonise with the quality materials used throughout the interior. Bose ADAPTiQ audio calibration actually fine-tunes the sound to optimise the performance based on the room and the furnishings, so it delivers the best sound in every situation. A separate bass Bose Acoustimass® module means the system delivers thunderous bass, yet the module is surprisingly small. Able to be tucked unobtrusively under the shelf, the small size and elegant design mean there was absolutely no compromise on the elegant interior design, and wireless connectivity ensures there is not a single cord in sight.
‘The interior design was just as important as getting the exterior elevations and the floor plan right’, says Tom. ‘We designed the interiors to be flexible, just like the floor plan, so the Bose system was great as not only do Bose make the highest quality sound and beautifully simple design, but this system can be moved if necessary. We really liked that it gave the effect visually and aurally of an in-built audio-visual system, but had the flexibility that the house needed’.
The hearth with the fireplace and entertainment system are one focal point for the room, surrounded by a modular couch that invites snuggling up by the fire to watch a film or listen to music. The other key focus of the interior is the view, with an expanse of glass opening on to a deck with uninterrupted views over the farmland to the coast beyond. Opening directly from the living and dining area, the close proximity to the living space means the Bose audio brings music to this outdoor space, and the deck becomes an extension of the interior, designed to spill out onto and eat, relax and enjoy the natural setting. Even when the weather is not kind enough to spend time outside, the orientation of every zone within the room means the kitchen, living and dining all have equal access to the expansive view of the outdoors.
Designing a house for several generations of a large family gave this project its unique challenges, but the final result makes it look natural. The level of consideration and care is clear in every element, from the passive solar design to the interior. By focusing on simplicity and quality, the house is inherently stylish, functional and comfortable – a fitting home on land beloved by the family for decades.