Amid the rigours of everyday family life one Yarra Valley family has found the much-sought-after best of both worlds at a smart Steels Creek property they have called home for the past decade.
A long gravel driveway meanders up a hillside to the striking home, but you wouldn’t know it from the facade. Simple and elegant, the entry gives only a snapshot of what is to come. And that is just the way the owners like it. Through the rusted, architectural gate is a serene courtyard designed by the owners to be the house’s first room. The centrepiece is a water feature urn by local artist Ted Secombe. Japanese maples provide an elegant soft canopy to this space.
Privacy and serenity are important to this family, who moved from inner Melbourne to the 40-acre block 12 years ago. They set up home in the original small cottage on the block and set about designing the perfect home as their base.
Inspired by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt the owners designed the house themselves. It is a classy blend of contemporary spaces and modern finishes, all the while mirroring the colours and framing the view of the natural world outdoors.
They engaged local builder Chris Overend, and other local tradesmen including stonemasons, and the result is a timeless and robust family home.
The floor plan is cleverly arranged with distinct zones for sleeping, entertaining, working and relaxing – ideal for the needs of a growing family. For the owners one of the difficult parts of creating the design was working out the dimensions of each space – that was where the invaluable skill of the builder came to the fore. The builder also suggested framing the glazing along the living room to make the best of the views. “If it wasn’t for Chris we wouldn’t have got the result we did. He was on our wavelength and could interpret what we wanted.”
Although the home is thoroughly modern and timeless it is ultimately a warm and inviting family home. The combination of spotted gum floors and the interior stonework combine to bring warmth to the lofty contemporary spaces and plentiful glazing.
“We didn’t want it to be an architectural museum. When you are here at 5 in the afternoon (when all the children are home) you can clearly see that it is a family home, often with a football flying past.”
The building and landscaping took just over two years. But before building started the couple engaged well-known landscape architect Paul Bangay, and the result is a simple form typical of his style.
“Paul had relatives in the area and he grew up riding horses around here, so he is quite attached to the area, and knew how you had to let the landscape talk in the design as opposed to creating just a garden.”
Structure in the garden is provided by many deciduous trees, lambs ears and seaside daises which when planted en masse create an orderly and striking display. Swaths of lawn invite you to meander through the gardens or to grab the croquet stick. A separate, sunken area of the garden is devoted to the veggie patch, fitted with raised beds and tidy chook shed to continue the orderly garden theme.
“We wanted the house to follow the flow of the land. The best thing we did was to have Paul right at the start. He worked out all the levels and how the house should sit on the site; where the stone walls should go for example. It was very collaborative.”
The ever-changing bushland views inspired the colours of the exterior and use of Coldstream stone inside and out ensures that the house constantly references the outdoors.
For the owners the home has been just what they wanted: plenty of natural light, immersed within its natural surroundings and robust enough to withstand the needs of a growing family.
“Every morning I come out of the bedroom and look at the view, and it may be just my 30-second daily meditation, but every morning it takes my breath away, because it is so different everyday. We are so lucky, we really do live in paradise.”