‘Two Sheds’ is the product of a close collaboration between two architects: Roger Nelson, the founding principal of NH Architecture who has decades of experience behind him, and Ben Shields, the founder and design director at DREAMER, who prior to this project, had never been the lead architect on a build of this scale.
The house is actually Roger’s personal holiday home shared with his wife Jane, four children, and their children’s families. Roger and Jane were seeking a place where all parties could escape from the city to reconnect with one another and the outdoors.
Despite the serene outcome of the project, it may be surprising to learn that the home is, in fact, vastly different to what was initially proposed.
Roger and Jane had originally designed a much larger 700 square house for this previously vacant bush block, just outside of Lorne, Victoria, at which point they engaged DREAMER to complete the interiors. However, upon discussion with Ben, a smaller home more appropriate for its purpose was realised, inspiring a complete redesign, and a resulting home of around 220 square metres. ‘We ultimately suggested a new concept, and worked to get this as compact as possible and meet the brief and budget,’ says Ben.
The new design, while much smaller, contains a great variety of spaces to suit both communal and quiet living, as desired by the clients. ‘We chatted at length about how the house could be organised to allow for places of privacy and retreat, places to read, spaces for chatting, and socialising and coming together,’ says Ben. Integral to this was an element of Roger’s original design that saw the home’s layout span two interconnected buildings. Ben says, ‘The idea was that with a shed for socialising, and a private shed for retreat and sleeping, the zoning would be crystal clear and give the inhabitants diversity and options in how they wished to inhabit the space.’
This two-building layout ensures the house feels intimate and functional, regardless of how many people are at home. On occasions when only two guests are staying, for example, the sleeping shed can be closed off via seamless pivots and sliders to function more like a single master unit or pavilion.
Various influences underpin this project’s aesthetic. Firstly, the design looks to the verandah and gable roof elements of cottages and sheds located on the nearby stretch of highway between Geelong and Anglesea. ‘For us, the verandah and gable roof were these familiar elements that we felt would not only meet the functional and spatial requirements, but also allow for a level of nostalgic engagement within a contemporary building,’ says Ben. The feeling evoked by Frederick McCubbin’s paintings of Australian rural land provided another local reference point, along with the restraint and rigour of brutal materials showcased in the work of Kerstin Thompson Architects.
International points of reference include Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and the interiors of the Zinc Mine Museum by Peter Zumthor that influenced the bathrooms in particular. The featureless gable roof is also reminiscent of residential work by Japanese studio Matsuyama Architect and Associates.
This was the first residential project to be completed under the DREAMER name, and it’s an experience Ben is refreshingly frank about. ‘I had never run a project of that scale without another senior architect above me. You think you know things until you have to run a project on your own,’ he says. ‘If we could do it again, there’s plenty we would do differently, but that’s how these things work and we are very happy with the result and particularly happy that the client adores the house.’
One thing’s for sure, without DREAMER, this would have been a very different house. By working collaboratively, Ben and Roger were able to fine tune their initial ideas, culminating in a truly dreamy outcome!
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