THE CONTEMPORARY FARM HOUSE
Take a look around 13 Acres at Beechworth, one of the North East’s most unique countr y properties.
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.”
‘ 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.’-