Take a look around 13 Acres at Beech­worth, one of the North East’s most unique countr y prop­er­ties.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Anita Mcpher­son pho­tos Brenda Pom­ponio

Hav­ing grown up in the North East, Brenda and Lou Pom­ponio said it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore they left their in­ner sub­ur­ban life­style in Mel­bourne to re­turn to build their dream home on a

pic­turesque coun­try block.

AT the en­trance to 13 Acres in Beech­worth, a long, tree lined drive­way draws you in be­fore curv­ing gen­tly past young Cana­dian maples and open­ing up to a strik­ing, con­tem­po­rarystyle home.

Com­pleted in 2013, some years ear­lier, own­ers Brenda and Lou Pom­ponio had been hap­pily liv­ing in an in­ner sub­urb of Mel­bourne while dream­ing of one day hav­ing their own coun­try “pad”.

Brenda said af­ter spend­ing her teen years in Yar­ra­wonga and with Lou hav­ing grown up in Wan­garatta, the cou­ple were al­ready quite fa­mil­iar with the North East and both had a soft spot for Beech­worth.

“It was a town that we both had re­ally fond mem­o­ries of as part of our child­hood,” she said.

“It’s funny how it hap­pened be­cause we didn’t get the coun­try pad, we got the coun­try block, which still didn’t give us what we were as­pir­ing to, but planted the seed that led us to move here.

The cou­ple dis­cov­ered the 13 acre prop­erty in 2009, lo­cated just a few kilo­me­tres from Beech­worth but within a quiet and pri­vate es­tate, away from the pass­ing tourist traf­fic and the com­mo­tion of the pop­u­lar re­gional hub.

With young chil­dren and Lou hav­ing just started a new busi­ness in Mel­bourne, mov­ing wasn’t re­ally an op­tion at the time, but they were at­tracted to the new es­tate and fell in love with the block.

They loved the long drive­way and the se­cluded po­si­tion, and the fact that the land was rel­a­tively flat and large enough to use in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ways.

Brenda said dur­ing the years fol­low­ing the pur­chase of the block, the cou­ple mod­i­fied their work­ing ar­range­ments in prepa­ra­tion for a life­style change, which was timed to suit their two pri­mary aged chil­dren.

She said what be­gan as a 10 year plan was brought for­ward to 2012 when they de­cided the time was right to talk to an ar­chi­tect and find a builder, a process which took about a year.

“There was no time pres­sure which made it al­most like a re­ally, slow, or­ganic de­ci­sion to move here,” she said.

“We made some changes so Lou could work from home and only go to Mel­bourne when he needed to.”

While it took Brenda a while to pic­ture her ideal home, she fo­cused more on its in­te­rior func­tion and was happy to be guided by Lou’s much clearer vi­sion of the size, shape and over­all look of their fu­ture home.

They both had sim­i­lar ideas on its ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance; want­ing some­thing bold and choos­ing to mix up the tex­tures for in­ter­est.

The nat­u­ral beauty of the ex­te­rior of the rec­tan­gu­lar struc­ture is en­hanced by Vic­to­rian Ash shiplap tim­ber and hoobler stone, and it sits com­fort­ably on the gen­tle slope to­ward the rear of the block where fea­ture win­dows bring the out­side in.

Brenda said the cou­ple didn’t shy away from the fact they used alu­minium win­dows, in­stead mak­ing a state­ment by giv­ing them a black pow­der coated fin­ish which tied in with the con­tem­po­rary look.

“I was ac­tu­ally re­ally ner­vous about build­ing a new house, be­cause I’ve al­ways lived in older style houses with lit­tle quirks and pe­riod fea­tures,” she said. >>

“And I was re­ally con­cerned at still mak­ing this house feel like it had warmth and wasn’t too ster­ile, es­pe­cially when we de­cided on a pol­ished con­crete floor.

“With un­der floor heat­ing there were lim­ited op­tions on what sort of floor­ing we could put over that.

“But that’s why we’ve warmed it up with stone in­side and our an­tique fur­ni­ture has fit­ted in re­ally nicely with the raw, rus­tic tim­bers and nat­u­ral tex­tures.”

The cou­ple have la­belled the home “the con­tem­po­rary farm­house” and the “13 acre” moniker comes both from the size of the prop­erty and a vi­sion of a po­ten­tial wine la­bel.

In­stead of be­ing a tra­di­tional, white weath­er­board farm­house with tim­ber floors and a wrap-around ve­ran­dah, they’ve given the con­cept a mod­ern twist, at one end in­cor­po­rat­ing an an­gled roof with a stained, ex­press-jointed tim­ber-lined ceil­ing over an ex­panse of mer­bau deck.

There are still lots of win­dows which flood the house with nat­u­ral light, but there’s a dis­tinctly “coun­try-but-con­tem­po­rary” look, with earthy colours cho­sen in­side to warm up what could have been a ster­ile, ul­tra-mod­ern en­vi­ron­ment.

“I want ev­ery­one to feel com­fort­able in it and I love how the fam­ily use the space,” said Brenda.

“While we like a clean and tidy house­hold, the com­pro­mise was to use warm colours and tex­tures which makes a big dif­fer­ence to the way it feels.”

The aim was to have an ul­ti­mately func­tional house where in­doors and out­doors meet seam­lessly through the re­tract­ing glass doors, and where the fam­ily can con­gre­gate and in­ter­act in a spa­cious, tele­vi­sion-free zone that’s warmed by a wood fire in win­ter.

It’s per­fectly suited to the pair who love to cook and en­ter­tain fam­ily and friends; an open and gen­er­ous sized kitchen, where guests are wel­come, ad­join­ing an ex­pan­sive liv­ing area, with its own tem­per­a­ture mod­er­ated, cylin­dri­cal stone cel­lar.

While the ar­chi­tect had orig­i­nally in­cluded a but­ler’s pantry, Brenda’s de­ci­sion was to open it up so she wasn’t co­cooned away from guests.

“We changed a few things to re­flect our life­style and how we want to con­nect with other peo­ple as well,” she said.

The five bed­room house of­fer­ing around 50 squares of liv­ing space took 14 months to build, which Brenda says was ex­actly the time es­ti­mated by builder Rob Humphreys of R&R Qual­ity Homes in Wan­garatta.

She said Rob “was amaz­ing” in the way he ap­plied his ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge to in­ter­pret the cou­ple’s vi­sion, keep­ing them “in the loop” through­out the build, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the first nine months when the fam­ily was based in Mel­bourne.

It was his rec­om­men­da­tion that the home be repo­si­tioned and built on the rise of the block to make the most of the views, and lo­cal trades­peo­ple and sup­pli­ers were en­gaged at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“Rob didn’t just go by the plan – he hon­estly built it as if he was go­ing to live in it him­self,” Brenda said.

Rob Humphreys said the project was chal­leng­ing, mostly be­cause of the way the struc­ture’s por­tal frames were de­signed to hold the clerestory win­dows and roof.

He said the win­dows, made in Wan­garatta, were dou­ble glazed, ther­mally bro­ken and ar­gon filled, while be­spoke, four panel doors in the in­te­rior hang on a track and rollers he cre­ated af­ter be­ing un­able to source them.

“Another fea­ture was the twisted roofline to the first bed­room and the al­fresco din­ing area, and the dif­fer­ent floor lev­els and pol­ished con­crete floors,” he said.

While the block they bought was a blank can­vas, Brenda said a veg­etable patch was es­tab­lished be­fore the house was fin­ished, an or­chard is be­gin­ning to take shape and there are plans for fur­ther land­scap­ing works in win­ter.

She said the cou­ple wanted their two chil­dren to en­joy their pri­mary years in the com­mu­nity of Beech­worth on a prop­erty where they could play on their own foot­ball field, and her son’s ex­pres­sion of delight at be­ing able to ride his bike up and down that drive­way as fast as he liked is a mo­ment she trea­sures.

“It gives you one of those ‘par­ent’ kind of fist pump mo­ments when you know you made the right de­ci­sion, and that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

“What be­gan as a jour­ney to find a coun­try week­ender - ended up be­ing so much more.”



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