Inside Out (Australia)
Starting from scratch, a professional couple turn a patch of Ballarat into an entertainer’s dream home
A new build in Ballarat is in tune with its environment and the couple who call it home
Perched in the kitchen, coffee in hand, Sam often spends the first moments of the day watching the sun spread across the paddocks and bushland. Kangaroos head back to the shadows and the day begins to unfold in distinct colours. “You feel very connected to the environment,” he says. “It’s not something I ever thought I would be passionate about until now, sitting here watching the changing sky.”
This sense of connectedness underpins the home Sam and Sarah share in Ballarat. It’s expressed through the natural materials that blend outdoors with inside, an orientation and form that is anchored in passive design principles, and a layout that pushes people towards each other and the bush landscape.
The design is the work of architect Mick Moloney of Moloney Architects. He worked to overcome the site’s southern orientation by splitting the home into two halves that step down the hill. “It was a process of taking that iconic pitched roof shape and splitting it in half, and then separating out those halves so we could get the northern light into those spaces,” says Mick.
With two heritage renovations under their belt, Sarah and Sam were dreaming of “straight walls and insulation” when they met with Mick to discuss a further extension to their miner’s cottage. It only took a walk through one of his new builds before they shelved their plans, sold up and started searching for a block to start afresh.
Within three months, they found a site on Ballarat’s fringe with a bushland vista and briefed Mick to design a house that would settle into the land. Ever keen to share their home, the couple wanted an open-plan living area that could be carved into social spaces. “One of the things that was particularly important to Sarah was that there be conversation areas, not limited to around the island bench, but to extend it to other pockets around the house,” says Mick.
Splitting the home into two forms with an entry on an intermediary level has created a beautiful structure that is as much a response to the site as it is to Sam and Sarah’s lifestyle. The couple love playing host to big groups, are the go-to at Christmas and have relished having half the house designed as a separate space for socialising. Guests can enter on a middle level then step down into a long living area with a raked ceiling and framed views of the bush. The kitchen, dining and living zones have been cut into the ply-clad shell of the home, along with built-in seating and storage. “We carved the conversation areas into the thickness of the walls,” says Mick. In the kitchen, different layers are exposed and cut out from the ply shell, with black Paperock surfaces revealing the depth of the building.
The storage, seating and window frames create mini social hubs throughout. “The curse of the open-plan space is that you have connectedness, but you don’t have any intimacy,” says Mick. “This is one version that gets around it by creating these little nooks and seating around the space that activates the edges and draws people towards the perimeter, so they can sit along the walls.”
Coming from IT and finance backgrounds, Sam and Sarah were able to translate their planning, budget and management skills to running the construction of the home as owner-builders. “It started as a budget decision, but it was amazing to have that level of control over the outcome,” says Sam. “Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it any other way.
“The real key was the planning,” he says. “Sarah had all the spreadsheets going. I kicked off with essential tradesmen and procuring all the fittings. We did this early so there were very few things that were unknown throughout the build.”
While the pair put their own stamp on the space, Mick acted as design advisor. “It was Mick who pushed us on the ply. We were a bit taken aback, but we thought, ‘Well, why not?’ ” says Sam. “That was one of the lessons for us, having an architect push your boundaries with what you can achieve. I’m happy he really challenged our ideas and pushed us right outside of our comfort zone.”
Sam took a little more convincing on the bolder design moves than Sarah did. “Interior design is my passion,” she says. “This was my time to flex my muscles!” She fully embraced the design process and even taught herself to use 3D modelling software. The steel bedside tables and brass bathroom mirror are the result, providing a personal imprint of creativity. For more of Mick Moloney’s work, visit moloneyarchitects.com.au.
the best bits
+ “The views. Standing in the kitchen, you get to take in the skylight above, the view down the hill and the view straight into the bush. Everywhere I look, there’s something I love,” says Sarah. + “The ply ceiling. It’s like origami. It looks like the timber folds up and changes angles. There are deliberate shapes everywhere you look. It’s absolutely phenomenal,” says Sam. + “The nooks. The living area works with two people, and it works with 50,” says Sam. “The design also creates the feeling of living outdoors because you can move around and be in sun or shade, with so many points to enjoy a breeze.”