The director of Moby Architecture and Interiors takes inside on a tour of his country home in Creswick, a former gold mining town north-west of Melbourne.
How long have you lived here?
My partner Mari and I have lived in this home for two years now. We spent a lot of time in Creswick visiting family and stumbled across this property for sale. In actual fact, the home backs on to my parents-in-law’s property and we had coveted it for years. One day we walked the dogs and saw the ‘for sale’ sign. We inspected it the next day and had an approved offer on the following day. It was really quick.
The property was previously a nursery and is full of mature trees. The 2.4 hectares (six acres) slopes gently to a winter stream and we have views to Springmount, a nearby hill.
In other words, we fell in love with the land, but the house was a bit of a letdown.
Why was the house a letdown?
It was a typical blonde brick home with lots of disconnected spaces, internal windows and dark timber tones. It had not been lived in for months and had leaking taps and rodents.
It was in pretty bad shape and, for one of the first times in my architecture career, I couldn’t see how it could be resolved into the home we had hoped to live in. It took months of testing ideas and drawing before we settled on a plan that inspired us both.
Through the renovation, you sought to create a visual and physical connection to the outdoors. Why was that important?
The outdoors was why we fell in love with the property! Its beauty trumped any negatives inside the house itself.
We wanted to really connect with the site and live in a home within the landscape rather than simply observing it from within an enclosed space. We both enjoy the outdoors and spend our spare time hiking or mountain biking.
To achieve this, we created a series of interlinked spaces that can also be separated through semi-transparent sliding screens. Circulation paths were designed to bring unbroken views of the garden into the home. From any space, you can see the landscape in several directions. Mature trees creep inside when the windows are open and a large ash tree takes pride of place at the entrance.
Recycled materials play a huge role in your home. Why?
The materials we chose were based on their character and the way they would age. We wanted to live in a home that would age gracefully and be robust enough to cope with rural living. A bonus was that many of these materials we sought, like the Tasmanian oak timber battens, were recycled.
We both feel that one of the most sustainable approaches to building is to make use of existing structures rather than demolish and rebuild. We have gone to great lengths to transform this home, which, at its core, was not particularly sustainable. This includes the usual double-glazing, insulation, efficient heating and cooling, but also extends to making the home as airtight as possible to reduce energy loss – a challenge in an older home.
Are you a good client?
I feel that initially, we were good clients as we had robust and detailed plans for what we wanted to achieve. Through the process, I feel that we could have become challenging as we were striving to achieve high levels of detail throughout the home and wanted to be highly involved. We were lucky that our builder enjoys the challenge and was happy to teach and educate me. I built a large portion of this home under the guidance of our brilliant builder!
Which is your favourite room and what makes it special?
The dining space. The light streams in through the tree canopy creating ever-evolving shadows and movement within the room. The windows create framed views out to the site and, in summer, we open the sash and the breeze moves through the home. It feels like living in a pavilion.
You’ve described your home as natural with imperfect materials. Can you elaborate?
We chose finishes that were honest and genuine. Timbers that were highly featured with irregularities from the mill, with slightly different thicknesses or tones, create texture and movement through the home. We selected clay tiles and natural black steel left raw with a matte penetrative sealer that deepens the blue heat marks while limiting corrosion.
By using imperfect materials, we don’t feel precious in the space. The more the home is used, the greater the character of the finishes becomes. Rather than paint finishes, we chose to stain or oil surfaces to highlight the natural character. The clean white plasterboard contrasts with the textured finishes to highlight the natural nature of the home. Surfaces are largely matte, which creates a calming feel in the home.
What is your favourite piece of furniture and why?
Our grandfather clock, which belonged to my great grandparents and was brought out from England in 1910. It reminds me of childhood gatherings in their home. It now has pride of place in our dining space.
Favourite thing to do at home when you’re not working?
I spend my time in the yard landscaping, constructing an upholstery workshop for my partner or in the barn repairing our ’68 Corvette. I enjoy building things and spend a lot of time on the property working towards our vision for the site.
This article originally ran in inside magazine. Grab a copy on newsstands now or online from the ADR store.
Photography: Rhiannon Taylor.
Moby Architecture and Interiors is a multi-disciplined architecture practice offering architecture and interior design services predominantly throughout Victoria.