With its small footprint and pared-back feel, the country retreat of interior architect Mark Simpson and his partner Max is unusually modest, for a regional home. After all, space isn’t exactly at a premium in regional Victoria, as far as we’re aware. And yet, Mark and Max have chosen to create a small, understated home here that offers the bare necessities required of a weekender – no more, and no less.
Built in 2011 in the Victorian town of Chewton, just outside Castlemaine, the home sits at less than 100-square-metres. But, with five-metre ceilings, windows on all sides, and central skylights, this is a home that feels much bigger than its deceptively modest footprint.
We speak with Mark about his architectural practice, DesignOffice, and the design of his unusually utilitarian weekender.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and pathway to DesignOffice?
I studied Interior Architecture in Scotland in the late 1990s, in a course which combined interior environments, a full architecture degree and urban design. That holistic and human-focused approach has been at the forefront of my design approach since and is at the heart of the way Damien and I work together.
Can you describe your general design thinking and approach?
A lot of our approach focuses on the brief and is underpinned by the inherent problem solving required in design. We’re as interested in how spaces feel and function as much as how they look. The emotional connection we all have with environments is a complicated thing to make tangible and that’s fascinating to us.
What inspired you to build your regional sanctuary, and what are your favourite details about the pavilion home?
The house is in Chewton, on the edge of the bush, just outside Castlemaine. We built it in 2011 as a weekender after falling in love with the township and the site. It’s a low-key place with a strong community and a great pool and pub!
At less than 100-square-metres, it’s not a big house. With five-metre ceilings, daylight on all four sides, and central skylights, the space that feels much bigger than its floor area. When you open the doors it really feels like a pavilion in the landscape.
The conversation pit is probably our other favourite thing, my partner Max and I was talking of having one for years – it’s essentially a sunken pit of upholstery where we can set up the projector and dive in!
How do the interior and exterior of the pavilion house relate to each other?
We wanted it to be a contemporary form, yet one that has a relationship with its surroundings – where the building sits in its landscape as opposed to on it. The simple pitched roof and light grey cladding references the tin sheds and outbuildings in the surrounding area.
Did you encounter any challenges with this project?
It was a relatively simple build, to be honest, but getting it to look this simple was actually quite complicated! In the end, we made a cardboard model for the builder and worked with this to get the form right – we’re still a little analogue at DesignOffice!