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A Victorian family has created the perfect antidote to city life – a sustainable haven where the land meets the sea.
Busy Melburnians Simone and David Kelly craved a place to escape to regularly. David runs a commercial law firm and Simone was a lawyer for 15 years until she took a break that turned out to be ongoing. She wanted to spend more time with her two stepchildren – Alexi, now 14, and Mariella, 11 – and “concentrate on other things”. Simone was looking for balance. “Family life is incredibly difficult with two full-time lawyers in the house,” she says.
They purchased the perfect property in February 2016, a 1.2ha plot near Fish Creek, just north of Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost point of the Australian mainland. Two thirds of the land was old-growth bush; the remaining third cleared except for a large metal shed with a shower and toilet. It was in the shed that they lived when they came down from Melbourne on weekends.“Alongwithspidersandratsandothercreepycrawlies,” says David. “Plus it was freezing in winter.”
From the outset, the couple’s aim was to have modular-pod design firm Archiblox create a chic, comfortable dwelling for their weekend and holiday escapes. Simone admired the company’s work and David knew the director, Bill McCorkell,
“so there was already a level of trust”, he says. The contract was signed in May 2017 and the design worked out in close consultation with Simone and David.
The home had to be built according to BAL29 specifications, the stringent building regulations for new homes in bushfireprone areas, introduced after the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that ravaged Victoria in 2009. All the external walls neededtobeanon-combustiblematerial,socorrugatedColorbond was chosen for the cladding. Silvertop ash – one of only seven hardwood species deemed suitable for homes in bushfire-prone areas – was picked out for the decking and eaves. Meanwhile, blackbutt, another fire-retardant timber, was ordered for the internal flooring throughout.
Work began onsite on October 2017, when the two completed residential pods were delivered. It took a full day to unload the pods – in dismal weather – and another month to join them together. That involved connecting the stumping and installing the plumbing, electricals, gutters, downpipes, flyscreens and solar panels, as well as rectifying some minor damage that had occurred during transportation.
One module is for living, the other for sleeping. The living modulehasasizeabledeckandfeatureslarge-formatwindowsand glass doors that draw in natural light, provide cross-ventilation and frame the views of the paddocks and Corner Inlet. Raked ceilings add architectural flair. The sleeping module contains three bedrooms (one kept for guests), a laundry and bathroom. Off the laundry is another small deck that looks out to the forest; its stone bath is the perfect place to watch the sun set.
The bush-inspired weekender is quite a contrast to Simone and David’s inner-city Melbourne home – a Federation house with a largely neutral colour scheme. “This home is all about cocooning and richness,” says Simone, who chose an earthy green colour – almost khaki – for the walls. “When David went to see the pods being built he was a bit shocked! But it’s a really comforting colour and relates to the landscape.”
Sustainability is at the core of the modular-home movement, and in this case also extends to the furnishings and decor. Simone set herself the challenge of sourcing as much as she could secondhand. “Almost everything in the house is preloved – even the fridge,” she says. “I spent ages trawling through op shops, Gumtree and eBay. The process was fun because you have to be a lot more inventive and creative; I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Simone and David are also passionate organic gardeners (see a review of Simone’s new book, Family Harvest, on page 191), at their Melbourne home and at Fish Creek, where they grow capsicums, coriander, basil, broccolini, tomatoes, radishes, springonions,thyme,turnips,pumpkin,zucchiniandwatermelon. There are two water tanks and the rainfall’s been good... Next up for Simone is making and bottling her own passata. Archiblox, Burnley, Victoria; 1300 773 122 or archiblox.com.au.
MAIN DECK Owners Simone and David and daughter Mariella with their pugs, Molly (left) and Fu Manchu. In the distance is Corner Inlet, near Wilsons Promontory. Steel-framed eaves and awnings shield the home’s interior from harsh summer sun. The deck and awning are silvertop ash. Freedom dining table and benches, bought through Gumtree. ‘Junto’ terracotta carafe by Simon Legald for Normann Copenhagen and ‘Infinity’ bowl in Ochre, both Lightly. LIVING The bush surroundings have even inspired the artwork. Freedom leather sofa, bought secondhand. ‘Dane’ wool cushion in Sage and ‘Ryder’ leather cushion in Tan, both Abode Living. Local hero: ‘Kangaroo Close-Up’ photographic print by Kara Rosenlund, from $290 (unframed). >
MAIN DECK/LAWN “The kitchen splashback looks amazing when you’re outside at sunrise and the light’s reflecting off it,” says Simone. To the left of the deck are a number of old carrot-planting boxes filled with premium topsoil for growing vegetables. Native grasses planted around the decks attract birdlife. A large mob of kangaroos visit at dawn and again at dusk to eat the grass, and there is a wombat happily in residence under the house. The ‘Zen’ steel fire pit (in the foreground) from Remarkable Outdoor Living sees plenty of use. It rusted to the orange-red colour over time. REAR DECK Simone loves relaxing in her beautiful stone bath, built into the deck. “It weighs about 300kg!” she says. Designer buy: ‘Castello’ bath, $3462, Natural Stone Bath Factory. Milli ‘Inox’ outdoor shower in marine-grade stainless steel, Reece. The deck’s periphery is lined with fire-retardant James Hardie fibre-cement cladding.