For years Mike Cattell wanted to build a barn-inspired home but struggled to find the right piece of rural land that would complement his vision for quintessential Australian architectural techniques and a luxurious lifestyle.
When he did find the land, a lush three acres at the base of Mount Hay outside Berry on the NSW South Coast, the modern and luxurious barn-like structure was the perfect match for the semi-rural Australian lifestyle.
The trend for adaptive reuse of materials combined with ultra-sharp modern features are becoming increasingly featured in more traditional rural settings in Australia for their suitability and character.
“We designed this house as our ideal home many years ago,” Mr. Cattell said. “The floor plan was designed so there is no wasted space. This is the first house we’ve ever lived in we’ve been truly happy in.”
Topped with a zinc roof and clad in locally sourced ironbark that has silvered with the weather, the four-bedroom home with two additional guest bedrooms, incorporates recycled bricks from an old warehouse in Sydney’s historic Rocks precinct.
Picking up a 2015 Housing Industry Association building award, the open-plan living pavilion is lined with timber, featuring high-raked ceilings and handmade scissor trusses constructed from recycled telegraph poles.
Listed for sale for A$3.7 million (US$2.69 million), it captures a “luxury rustic charm,” selling agent Tim McGoldrick, of Elders Berry, said of the home.
“It is one of those things when you come to the area it’s unique to anything else in the marketplace but fits in the with locality really well,” he said.
“You’re not going to find a home like this in the middle of suburban Sydney but it suits a high- end rural market such as this. It’s unique in design but feels familiar at the same time. It suits the landscape really well because of its real and earthy tone.”
As one of the first main rural regions south of Sydney, Mr. Goldrick said Berry was “still a country town at heart” and popular with buyers looking for an acreage, dairy or horse property for use as a weekender or retirement.
A Trend in Tune with Modern Lifestyle
Tim Ditchfield senior architect Oskar Booth said the current generation of architects have been influenced by the likes of Glenn Murcutt and Gabriel Poole “without even knowing it.”
The use of simplistic and primitive architecture displays a distinctly Australian flavour with attributes that don’t rely on flashy or luxurious materials. The trend has championed the use of recycled materials alongside glass, stone, brick, concrete and corrugated metal.
Found in predominantly rural areas, these typically Australian buildings are designed to conserve energy and blend with the landscape and respond to the movement of the sun, moon, light, wind and seasons.
“I see the ‘Australian Style’ as an embellished shed, evolved from early rural buildings and into something simple yet refined,” Mr Booth said. He described the structures as “well-designed,” constructed from raw, natural and robust materials, such as corrugated iron, timber, steel, or concrete.
“The beauty lies in the spaces and in the honesty of materials,” he continued. “The inherent qualities of those natural or raw materials are left to shine through, rather than being concealed or disguised.”
“Through efficient and well-designed spaces and carefully considered materials, we can be left with spaces that feel rich, welcoming and comfortable without being pretentious or over-done,: Mr. Booth said. "A canvas upon which to live well. I feel that this ‘modern Australian style’ really allow us to live in this way.”
Areas where these designs are being explored include semi-rural locations within driving distance of Sydney, including the Southern Highlands and NSW South Coast, and within 100 kilometers of Melbourne, such as the Great Ocean Road, Bellarine Peninsula and Mount Macedon in Victoria.
A Barn Transformed
Autumn Park on Diamond Field Road, Mittagong, in the NSW Southern Highlands, was originally a barn before being transformed into a contemporary home by Sydney northern beaches architect Mike Hale.
The barn, which took less than three weeks to sell when listed in May for A$5 million (US$3.64 million), has exposed old wharf timbers and a new glass walkway linking the original barn with a contemporary butterfly-roof pavilion.
“Autumn Park is the perfect blend of rural simplicity and contemporary styling and offered in the most retreat-like of spaces; it’s a rare offering,” said agent Sarah Wotton of Highlands Property.
The barn’s size and scale has resulted in a spectacular living area, separated into zones by the old wharf timbers and additional, complementary joinery, to complete the rustic aesthetic.
Modern updates include an expansive chef-like kitchen with gas and induction cooktops, wok burner and teppanyaki plate, wall ovens, multiple fridges and two breakfast bars.
Located on 100 acres, the paddocks, machinery shed and a creek—crossed by an old sturdy railway bridge—complete the rural package.
Separately, one of the most high-profile executions of Australia’s architectural past and present is award-winning architect John Wardle’s renovated Shearers Quarters house, positioned down a 1.5 kilometer dirt driveway at the northern end of Bruny Island, off Tasmania.
Hailed as a “triumph of design” by Wardle’s architectural peers, the project used a singular palette of materials of corrugated galvanized iron for the exterior, which Mr. Wardle described as “the traditional material for agricultural sheds” revealing an entirely timber-clad interior.
The layout includes an open living/dining/kitchen area, bathroom and laundry, two bedrooms and a bunk room.
Picking up numerous awards, including the 2012 Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture (Houses), the jury said of the Shearers Quarters: “The lodgings have a wonderful sense of spirit, tactility and purpose; the use of applewood cladding throughout the interiors are warm, simple and humble without the loss of modern convenience or luxury.”