Neil and Kristy Plumridge were working Melbourne professionals when they decided on a major tree and career change in 2015.
The couple looked at 10 farms across Victoria, but came back to the first one they inspected in West Gippsland. ‘Nothing compared to our first love for this Yarragon South property… We fell under its spell of verdant rolling hills, tall mountain ash timbers, and golden western sunsets,’ says Kristy.
Both the land and existing house on site were in a downtrodden state, requiring a farm consultant to help regenerate pastures, secure water, and re-fence paddocks over two years.
Kristy and Neil engaged Slap Architects in 2016 to design a new house on the farm in a style and manner sympathetic to the surrounding region.
‘We wanted to work with an architect who was based in the Gippsland region and understood the requirements of building a country property,’ says Kristy. ‘There are a lot of aspects you need to comply with around specific overlays such as bushfire attack management, erosion management, and environmental significance.’
The couple were interested in a barn-style home inspired by the existing stables and tin sheds already on the property and dotted across nearby hills.
Just as the city dwellers (with no previous farming experience!) had seamlessly assimilated to a regional setting, they wanted their new home to do the same. ‘We wanted to have our home sit within the landscape and surrounds and not look like a new city build,’ says Kristy.
Indeed, one could easily assume this home is simply a utilitarian barn from a distance. The magic happens when you slide the red farm door back and enter the home.
‘You are first struck by the towering beams that lead to a wood-lined pitched roof, then you are entranced by the full height windows that set you straight into the views of the hills,’ says Kristy.
Throughout the interiors, recycled brick walls meet burnished concrete floors, and rough timber lining boards — a nod to milking sheds previously on site.
‘We wanted to use natural timbers and materials that reflected the bush surrounds,’ says Kristy. ‘The design means we are constantly drawn back to looking at nature through both the use of natural wood interiors and the views. The inside reflects the outside.’
This material palette is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing, facilitating a robust working farm home. Curves in the furnishing balance the angular elements of the build to encourage relaxation at the end of the day.
The completed house is the hub of all things Green Hills Farm, which encompasses their garlic crop Gippsland Garlic, raising grass-fed beef, and welcoming guests to accomodation The Ridge House. Kristy and Neil also collaborate with local businesses to host events and tours of their property’s 60-tree orchard and kitchen garden.
Developing these community connections is what Kristy loves most about her family home and living in West Gippsland. ‘The sense of community is strong. If you need help to tow a tractor out of the mud or lemons for a dessert, you just call a neighbour and they are at your doorstep ready to help. It’s all about sharing food, knowledge, stories and time with people.’