Lavishly endowed with glowing Australian timber and limestone, this home has a robust but luxe materials palette "from the earth", says Abe McCarthy of Abe McCarthy Architects. Abe collaborated with interior designer Alice Villella of AV-ID, custom builders Gstruct Group and landscaper Barber Design to establish this warm, inviting family home embedded in open pastures on the Mornington Peninsula.
WHAT WAS THE CLIENT’S BRIEF?
Abe McCarthy: We had worked with our client, a couple with a growing family, on two prior residential renovations. The essence of the idea of a dream home for them, a new build on the Flinders site, was conceived some years ago. Work began on an initial concept in 2013 to a brief centred on the creation of a family farmhouse that interwove rustic rural living with modern refinement.
WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES OF THE SITE AND HOW DID YOU RESOLVE THEM?
AM: The undulating site presented broad scope for positioning the building. The formal expression of three connected barn forms nestled in the landscape was a direct engagement with the rhythm of nature. As the chosen site was an open paddock, the design response needed to engage with views in all directions. The design does not have a front or back as all elevations are composed to afford framed views from and towards the building.
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DESIGNING A HOME IN A REGIONAL SETTING SUCH AS THIS?
AM: The home offers seclusion in its siting and is revealed on approach down a long driveway. Its off-grid character gave rise to several initiatives. Heating is generated by a wood-pellet boiler and log fireplaces. Solar panels provide electricity. Rainwater storage is spread over multiple tanks to address domestic needs as well as watering gardens and fire-fighting. A natural dam also feeds into the irrigation. Northern glazing and deep overhangs protect from summer heat and allow passive heating in cooler months. The design needed to respond to extreme weather variation and the building can be configured to breathe naturally or become a cosy haven during seasonal extremes. The integration of the garage within the main home adds an additional layer of weather protection and practicality. This home provides versatility as a functional farmhouse, a cosy family home and a place for work, entertaining, and wellbeing and retreat.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE IDEAS AND INFLUENCES THAT SHAPED YOUR DESIGN?
AM: Our client drew stylistic inspiration from non-contemporary building types including rural vernacular styles from European and American heritage. We meditated over the various influences to distil these ideas to a core essence that responded and engaged with the Australian coastal rural context.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COMPLETED HOME AND WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGN ELEMENTS?
AM: Internally, the Flinders House is characterised by spatial drama expressed and framed through the curated interplay of texture, light and space. Raked double-height volumes and carefully crafted proportions create a visceral and uplifting experience, as well as a sense of joy and delight. Spaces change character over the course of the day as shafts of light and stretches of soft shadow move throughout. I love the amazing feeling you get within the spaces and the way the proportions of the home resonate so well with human scale. It feels considered and homely, while still feeling quite grand. It's an impressive experience.
The floor plan is simple in one sense but quite sophisticated in another. It offers zoning for privacy as well as communal living, and responds to the utilitarian requirements of a practical home for a growing family and rural dwelling with apparent simplicity. All these aspects are responded to in a considered and harmonious way. The pool experience is special. It's like a blade of rippling glass floating on the landscape.
HOW DOES THE PROJECT RESPOND TO THE SURROUNDING LANDSCAPE?
AM: This project is from the earth in the sense that its material palette is Australian timber and limestone but also in that the interconnected barn forms are nestled into the sloping land and engage directly with sunlight, framed views of bushland and the coastal horizon. The design language is premised on rural typologies that create a narrative between form and function.
WHAT INFORMED THE SELECTION OF FURNITURE, ART, FITTINGS AND FINISHES?
Alice Villella: It's a country house so furniture and fittings also needed to be robust enough to cope with the family's daily activities. The clients wanted beautifully resolved pieces of design that married with the interiors but also were practical. We wanted the furniture to fit in seamlessly with the interior flow yet add sophistication and elegance. The house has large volumes yet the furniture and fittings ground it so that it is warm and inviting. The clients love art and were keen to source it themselves.
The main piece in the living area is by Graeme Altmann. It spoke to them as they have a strong bond with Tasmania. The colour palette for the interior was inspired by the landscape – the red of the earth, the variety of greens in the vegetation and the gold of the grasses in high summer. I played with those colours tonally to add some drama and a sense of luxury but also maintain a feeling of calm and comfort. Fittings and finishes were selected for their textural and tonal attributes and for how they would age with the house. Brass and bronze metals add elegance and sophistication but they also patina beautifully as will the kitchen joinery's metal doors that continue to change and look more beautiful with time. The light and dark finishes throughout are informed by the play of shadow and light created by the architectural envelope.
WERE THE OWNERS HAPPY WITH THE EXECUTION?
AM: I have had the pleasure of sharing the "wow" experience with them and they are very happy with this project.
This secluded Australian country house features an Articolo Quadruple Ball Fizi Pendant over the dining table and two Float Hover Tall Wall Sconces in Drunken Emerald. The Float is a signature Articolo collection which evokes opulence and grace. It is refined lighting informed by its glamorous design cues of a bygone era. Defined by its soaring cylindrical form, it floats with presence. The Fizi collection is mesmerising with the explosion of bubbles suspended in champagne’sque effervescence. Breathtaking shadow play when Fizi is lit. Wall and ceiling jewellery for the home.
Words via Belle (Homes to Love)
Architecture by Abe McCarthy Architects
Custom Build by Gstruct Group
Landscaping by Barber Design
Interior Design by Alice Villella of AV-ID
Photography by Shannon Mcgrath