The path to Casa Warrandyte incorporates driving along a one-lane dirt road into a section of Warrandyte State Park, in Melbourne’s outer north-east. It’s this part of their commute that Kenny Pomare and wife Stace Burt savour. ‘When you turn off the sealed road and into the state park, and you have birds flying all around you, sunlight piercing through the trees and you see nothing but bush… that’s when you know you’re home’ says Kenny, ‘You can leave all the hustle of city life and any work stress behind you.’
For Kenny, work involves market strategy and product development for renewable energy and solar products, while Stace is the founder of Little Company, a skin and wellness brand that incorporates meditations and light therapy alongside rejuvenating facials. After moving to Melbourne from NZ, the couple fell in love with the bush and the creative community of Warrandyte, a former goldrush town set alongside the Yarra, 24 kilometres north-east of Melbourne CBD. ‘I was looking for a space here for about five years and actively going to auctions for six months’ says Kenny. When he finally found this three bedroom Alistair Knox home, he fell in love instantly. Stace needed some convincing: ‘The kitchen area was quite dark and the photos online didn’t do it justice, but after visiting the property I was in’. The couple made an offer the same day and moved in with their daughter Alexa and dog Zizzou at the end of 2016.
To brighten up the kitchen and living room, which feature the rough-sewn dark timber Alistair Knox is renown for, the couple had four large skylights put in as well as terrazzo tile flooring that references the artwork of Max Lamb. ‘Other than that, we haven’t had to do much…it’s been well maintained since it was first built’.
Originally their one-acre block, which meets the Yarra, was part of an alternative school that operated in the 1940s. ‘Our 90-year-old ceramicist neighbour still has the original school tennis court and the people across from us live in what was the original Headmaster’s House’ says Stace. In 1962 a fire destroyed the property. A decade later Alistair Knox designed a small 2BR fishing cabin which was used as a weekender. The property changed hands in the late 1990s when its owner renovated it to add another bedroom and conservatory, as well as a separate artist’s studio, all of which utilise floor-to-ceiling double-glazed windows to bring the wild bush-scape inside.
The entrance of the main mudbrick house opens into a sun-drenched conservatory featuring art by Bobby Clark and den holm, as well as unique finds from vintage bazaars. ‘We bought the sheep to remind us of New Zealand,’ laughs Kenny, ‘The Verner Panton Bachelor chairs are ones we have had for years’ says Stace, ‘and they finally really suit the space around them’. The galley kitchen is bright and features pottery from Temuka and an Isamu Noguchi Akari light sculpture. In the bedrooms are oversized indoor plants, African mud cloths from Pan After and artworks from Shayna Quinn, Stella Maria Baer and Sebastian Sarria. A full outdoor deck adjoins the living room, featuring a mid-century firepit and vintage furniture.
Currently the artist’s studio is utilised by visiting friends and family, but the couple plan to start renting it out on Airbnb. ‘Waking up in the studio is spectacular, you’re met with nothing but nature’.
‘We were so lucky to find this place. There’s such an eclectic mix of people in Warrandyte. You have the Yarra Valley on your doorstep and it’s a 45-min drive into the city. You can have a swim in Yarra, meditate on the deck, visit St Andrew’s Market, eat at A Boy Named Sue then completely chill out at home with nature’ says Kenny. Says Stace, ‘Our work life is all about being mindful of ourselves and our environment, and having a home that’s surrounded by nature, reminding of us our place alongside it, is really important to us.’