This Breathtaking Modern Farmhouse Brings The Outdoors In

The story behind Merricks Farmhouse spans more than five years, with two architecture practices working on the project, from opposite sides of the world.

The newly built house on the lush, 50-acre property in the Mornington Peninsula is a collaboration between South African architect Michael Lumby and Brisbane-based practice Nielsen Jenkins.

Designed as a modern interpretation of the traditional Australian farmhouse, the residence heroes the surrounding landscape at every opportunity, perfectly framing enchanting views over vineyards and out towards the bay.

Christina Karras

Welcome to Merricks Farmhouse on the Mornington Peninsula.

The residence is a newly built single-storey home, on a sprawling 50-acre farm.

Some of the home’s concrete walls are as thick as one metre.

An enchanting series of ponds bring a sense of serenity to the gardens.

A look into the home’s calming central courtyard.

The design draws your eye into the distance towards the bay in the day, and when the night falls the focus shifts inward towards the landscape of the courtyard just outside the main living areas.

The main living spaces feature a blend of charred timber on the ceiling and concrete walls.

The intimate courtyard was created to contrast the sprawling nature of the exposed and elevated block.

Skylights also enhance the home’s sense of place.

A towering bookshelf stands beside a study.

Almost every window was placed to frame garden views.

Even the bathrooms open to lush green spaces.

An above ground pool is also enveloped in trees, surrounded by concrete walls.

Fluffy plantings and diverse grasses soften the concrete structures.

The pool looks out to both rolling hills and water views.

The main house was inspired by the look of traditional farmhouses.

The incredible outdoor dining space.

Crazy paving is broken up with mossy green plants throughout.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s work also influenced the flat roof form and detailing.

The farm has its own vineyards, a tennis court, and dam with a jetty.

The house is designed as a tool for experiencing the enchanting landscape.

Christina Karras
3rd of August 2023

Part of the magic of this farmhouse is that every room inside looks out onto the property’s serene gardens.

The home is located into Merricks, a small town in the Mornington Peninsula, nestled between the Victorian region’s best wineries and beaches. And this elevated, 50-acre block enjoys views of both, thanks to the thoughtful design by Michael Lumby Architecture and Nielsen Jenkins.

The project started in 2016, when the clients approached Michael for a list of recommended Australian architects that could create their idyllic ‘base’. He reached out to Nielsen Jenkins director, Morgan Jenkins, who he’d been friends with since the two met in Cape Town almost 10 years ago. ‘[We] have always kept across the work of each other’s studio, so the chance to collaborate on a project was really exciting,’ Morgan says.

‘The clients travelled a lot with their work, and they wanted a place that would suit them as a base when it was just the two of them, but also expand easily to accommodate the four children and their future families.’

Championing the property’s location was always going to be central to the design. Even the budget was ‘prioritised’ towards shaping the occupant’s connection to landscape, with pared-back materials like raw block work, steel fittings and thick concrete walls allowing the house to recede into the grassy hillside. But the initial inspiration for the architecture was driven by Michael’s interest in the traditional Australian farmhouse.

‘As an outsider, he was particularly drawn to the farmhouse itself with its strong, singular roof form and the strong dark recess below the eaves of the veranda,’ Morgan adds.

The architects positioned the new build in the same spot as the existing single-storey home on the site, in order to incorporate all of the existing elm trees that lined the original driveway in a new entryway, and carefully shaped the house around a large, central and sheltered courtyard. It’s become the ‘most important room’ of the house, ensuring the interiors would feel like a refuge from the world outside, by offering intimate garden views. The living spaces are also cocooned by deep eave overhangs and dark charred-timber finishes on the ceiling.

Morgan says the front-wing was cleverly designed to operate as a one-bedroom pavilion, creating a cosy atmosphere for when the rest of the house is not in use by guests.

International garden designer Franchesca Watson and Melbourne-based landscape architect Robyn Barlow came together for the property’s lush gardens. In addition to retaining the mature trees on the grounds and an old windbreak of lilly pillies in a secondary courtyard, soft, fluffy plantings have been used to envelop the crazy paving across the outdoor spaces — surrounding the pool, a series of ponds, and a dining terrace with vistas of paddocks and the waterfront beyond.

Morgan says the ambitious project wasn’t without its challenges, as they navigated time differences, distance, and then Covid — which lead to a big overlap of varying trades, managed by the ‘incredible’ ATMA Builders who pulled everyone together in the spirit of true collaboration.

‘It’s been an adventure,’ Morgan adds. But the breathtaking result is something all the teams are immensely proud to have been a part of.

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