Feature Interview

Ben Robertson & The Ceres Gable House

Ceres, VIC, Australia

Sophie Sisko

Dave Kulesza

Ben standing in the upper level kitchen of CGH. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

“When we describe anything we do, we always give it a story. There’s always a meaning behind something and why it’s chosen, which is never trend based”, says Ben Robertson, Director of Tecture.

This statement certainly rings true when it comes to the Ceres Gable House. Sitting proudly atop the landscape of the surrounding stud farm, this family home is designed with such respect for the original house’s history, that it creates a new home that clearly belongs.

Ceres Gable House entrance and verandah framing a glimpse of the landscape view that is to come. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

Ceres Gable House was a particularly special project to Tecture for several reasons. Firstly, when Ben won this project with a simple sketch to convey his unique vision to the clients, only two short months had passed since first opening the doors at Tecture in December of 2015. It was the first project in the first new year of starting his own company, and the experience of connecting so naturally with the project and the clients means Ben describes the house as “close to my heart”. Ceres Gable House was also the first rural project for the firm, which allowed for a very different style of design. The connection to the site and its history defined every decision that was made, and lent a great deal of significance to the interior, which was a major focus of the project.

This is the initial sketch Ben used to illustrate to the clients his intention to open up the front of the house to the expansive views, whilst maintaining a large majority of the original structure. It's "one simple idea which is about the view and connecting it to the old part of the house" describes Ben. It immediately spoke to the clients and they began working together.

The original house was built back in the Nineties by the clients as their first home, when they were in their twenties. It was a rambling farmhouse at the time and remained that way until the decision was finally made to update the property. Regardless of their desire to modernise, there was an undeniable emotional attachment to the original home that required sincere consideration in the remodeling. This was not simply a matter of adding some oversized extension as other designers had suggested, but required honouring the existing structure and evolving it into a more functional place to live. This is where Tecture came in. Ben listened to the clients speak so fondly of their home on the stud farm and the surrounding countryside, that it was clear to him that those two things were the inspiration for this project.

Through cleverly re-imagining the spatial planning to allow for better natural light and functionality, Tecture was able to maintain 75% of the original building. Reducing the demolition of the original structure was a massive accomplishment in reducing waste and meant the final budget was considerably less than expected. Most importantly, it meant that the family still felt like they were in their home.

Above, View facing out of the gable window from the upstairs dining and lounge area. Photography by Peter Clarke. Below left, Proposed upper level floorplan. Right, Existing upper level floorplan.

Effective adjustments have transformed this dwelling into a modern homestead that is, as Ben terms it, “simple with a sense of luxury.” Some of the more influential changes to the property were opening up the stairwell with vertical battens allowing the light to pour through the space, replacing the upper-level, north-facing wall with the large glazed gable window, and extending the upstairs living area to the perimeter of what was once an unused verandah. The cantilevered overhang from the upper level now creates a poolside outdoor living area. All of this was made possible by the talented construction team at Built by Wilson.

The stairwell is concealed with timber verticals that allow for light to spread through the home. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

Gable window with adjustable louvers overhanging to create the alfresco poolside living area. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

Tetcure‘s vision for the interior is a subtle narrative of the history of the property. The relationship between humans and horses triggered ideas of iron horse shoes and leather saddles. An example of this is the stunning 3.5m custom Volker Haug chandelier of interlocked bronze arches in the stairwell. Equine references of strength and masculinity are balanced with a sleek elegance, using tanned leather in the furniture and iron detailing to tie together every space.

View from the paddock looking up towards the home. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

Ultimately, the major focus of the interior spaces is the relationship created with the landscape beyond. The ability to open the glazed windows creates ventilation and gives the owners a feeling of connection with the environment around them. The layout of the home is modest in many ways and completely suitable for their family and lifestyle. Describing the emotional response to being inside the house, Ben says “my favorite part of the final product would have to be that feeling when you turn the corner and see the view. The spaces aren’t ‘ginormous’, but when you walk in and see a glimpse of that view – it’s just right in its scale.”

The custom Volker Haug chandelier in the stairwell. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

Sitting down with Ben in Tecture’s Collingwood office gave me an insight into this project, but also the team behind it. Tecture is a young firm that is making a name for itself by forming honest connections with clients and the community it engages with. Since opening their doors in late 2015, Tecture has impressively accrued just over eighty projects and has no plans for slowing down. From the outside, Tecture has the air of a cool and collected firm twice its age, however, Ben admits he still has to pinch himself every now and then to make sure it’s all real. Ben has built a small and reliable team around him that he values and recognises, saying “It’s not all me, it’s never going to be all me, it’s always going to be us.” The sincerity in his words and the commitment the Tecture team have to their work is obvious, making it clear why they have had such success.

Tecture has come a long way since the Ceres Gable House became their first project, and the approach of listening to their clients and engaging with the meaning behind each decision has served them well. Today, the Ceres Gable House is a testament to the value of honouring the history and significance of a site, joining old and new to create a home that is harmonious and timeless.

Ben sitting in the dining area of CGH. The clients owned many bronze horse sculptures and black and white horse photographs that integrated perfectly into the new design. Photography by Dave Kulesza.

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