A Very Contemporary Country Escape

When architects Telha Clarke were engaged to design a semi-rural home for a young family, their clients expressed two key interests. As city apartment dwellers by weekday, they were seeking a weekend house that would give them privacy, while also providing a connection to the landscape. 

With these goals in mind, architect Tim Clarke and his team set out to design a relaxing retreat for the couple and their newborn son. The result is a sleek, contemporary cabin-like main house, with a contrasting guest wing, surrounded by native flora.

Amelia Barnes

The main building Hepburn Springs House adopts a cabin-like, raked ceiling form. Photo – Lynton Crabb

Photo – Lynton Crabb

Photo – Lynton Crabb

The dark timber kitchen island bench. Photo – Lynton Crabb

A minimal, contemporary bathroom. Photo – Lynton Crabb

This home is all about relaxation! Photo – Lynton Crabb

Entry into the home is via a serene vestibule. Photo – Lynton Crabb

A fully-glazed wall frames views of native trees. Photo – Lynton Crabb

The home appears as two perpendicular forms among existing mature trees. Photo – Lynton Crabb

Amelia Barnes
7th of April 2020

Hepburn Springs House is the weekender of a young family whose predominant residence is a Melbourne CBD apartment. As their apartment offers minimal privacy and no connection to nature, the owners were seeking a second house immersed in the landscape, where they could unwind from their busy lives. 

The site itself is a lush block with a natural gully in Hepburn Springs, located about 90 minutes north-west of Melbourne. On a plateaued slice of land, the home appears as two perpendicular forms among existing mature trees. Slate shingles envelope the large cabin-like form, while the guest wing adopts a lower, white rendered form. 

The cabin-like form of the main house was inspired by Peter Zumthor’s 1988 ‘Caplutta Sogn Benedetg’ (St Benedict Chapel) in Sumvitg, Switzerland, which is covered in timber shingles. This same treatment was originally planned for this project, however, due to strict bushfire building codes in the area, inherently fire retardant slate shingles were selected. ‘The resulting slate shingles are a beautiful outcome within the site context, and one which we may not have explored without bushfire constraints,’ says Tim Clarke, director of Telha Clarke

The guest wing is deliberately simpler in form, allowing light and shadow to express the outside landscape. ‘A granite stone threshold forms a bold marker as you transition from the pitched roof cabin into the contemporary guest wing, subtly referencing the outdoor greenery,’ Tim says.  

Telha Clarke’s design is mindful of the existing landscape, reinforcing the gully on site with local stone to ensure its presence and purpose is retained.  Retaining walls on the site are also constructed of local stone, further connecting the local aspirations of the project. Contemporary dormer windows and the fully-glazed wall in the main house seek to draw residents’ eyes out to these intentionally framed views. 

While this weekend house bears no resemblance in materiality or landscape to the family’s apartment, the latter did inform the 180 square metre size of the new house. ‘Size is the only similarity the two share, with privacy and landscape connection being the contrast and relief that the house provides over the apartment,’ says Tim. Raked ceilings and expansive views further increase the perception of space internally. 

For the owners, arriving at this house signifies a change of pace. Passing through the vestibule at the home’s entrance allows for a moment of pause, before stepping into their peaceful, minimal haven. 

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