Retro folly in mallee coun­try

A strik­ing home de­signed by Robin Boyd is avail­able for hol­i­day rentals

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KENDALL HILL

THE com­muter-belt town of Bac­chus Marsh, about 50km west of Mel­bourne, is fer­tile ground for mar­ket gar­dens and lit­er­ary imag­i­na­tions; both Peter Carey and Frank Hardy were raised here. It is less cel­e­brated for its ar­chi­tec­ture, a blend of gol­drush-era streetscapes, kit homes and dream man­sions on coun­try­sized blocks of land.

But cam­ou­flaged in a for­est of bull-mallee a short drive from the town sits a fas­ci­nat­ing ar­chi­tec­tural folly. The Robin Boy­d­de­signed for­mer home of Mel­bourne doc­tor Michael Baker is reached via un­sealed road through vir­gin bush­land.

The first sight of the prop­erty re­veals a mortared stone ex­te­rior shaded by eu­ca­lypts and ringed with what look like mini Martello tow­ers; these are, in fact, clev­erly dis­guised rain tanks to har­vest the home’s wa­ter sup­ply. Hon­eyeaters and mag­pies ser­e­nade from the tree­tops.

Un­like other land­mark Aus­tralian homes that are pri­vately owned or museums, Boyd Baker House is a hol­i­day rental where guests can in­dulge their Ar­chi­tec­tural Di­gest fan­tasies. Peter and Mary Mi­trakas bought the 14ha prop­erty from Baker in late 2006, had it her­itage listed shortly af­ter­wards and then fur­nished its aus­tere spaces with 1960s de­sign state­ments, such as Eames rose­wood lounge chairs and an orig­i­nal Feather­stone sofa.

Mary also brought a dec­o­ra­tor’s touch to the process; each of the three bed­rooms’ colour themes is dic­tated by a sig­na­ture piece of fur­ni­ture. There’s an orange Arne Ja­cob­sen swan chair, for ex­am­ple, the geo­met­ric white-on-black of a Ron­nie Tjampitjinpa paint­ing and a Hans Weg­ner sofa. Peter in­stalled retro lux­u­ries, in­clud­ing orig­i­nal Bang & Olufsen turnta­bles (BYO vinyl), and added con­tem­po­rary amuse­ments such as DVD play­ers and disc col­lec­tions in the bed­rooms.

The home was de­signed in 1964 and in his book Liv­ing in Aus­tralia, Boyd de­scribed the pro­ject as ‘‘like designing a build­ing for Robin­son Cru­soe’’.

‘‘As well as the usual ac­com­mo­da­tion for the fam­ily, the house was to con­tain a school­room where the chil­dren could be taught at home. No pub­lic ser­vices were avail­able when the build­ing started, al­though elec­tric­ity came soon af­ter. Rain­wa­ter had to be caught and stored.’’

He built it from lo­cal slate and stone, com­plete with the school­room Baker wanted for the ed­u­ca­tion of his and other lo­cal chil­dren. This space is now stocked with mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and games. Lin­ing the wall are four sleep­ing nooks with daybeds suit­able for chil­dren.

The Mi­trakases’ art col­lec­tion — a mix of in­dige­nous and con­tem­po­rary works — bright­ens walls through­out the home. The smaller Boyd Dower House was built 200m away to ac­com­mo­date vis­it­ing rel­a­tives. It sleeps an­other four adults. In 1977, a Roy Grounds-de­signed li­brary com­pleted this trin­ity of bush orig­i­nals. Those look­ing for ad­ven­ture can go horserid­ing, hik­ing or wine-tast­ing, but there is much to be said for staying put. In the evenings, light the fires, cook up a storm and dine with friends at the Hans Weg­ner ta­ble and Dan­ish wish­bone chairs. A thor­oughly mod­ernist house party. Kendall Hill was a guest of Boyd Baker House.

SYD­NEY LOW/ASTERISKIMAGES.COM

The Boyd Baker House in Bac­chus Marsh, Vic­to­ria

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