Dominic Bradbury, Journalist & Writer
 
ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST CHINA – JERRY WOLVERIDGE HILL PLAINS HOUSE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIAI – ‘MOUNTAIN VIEW’

WORDS – DOMINIC BRADBURY
PHOTOGRAPHS – RICHARD POWERS

Architect Jerry Wolveridge has found a very special spot to make a new home for himself and his family. His Hill Plains home sits upon the brow of a ridge not far from the picturesque gold rush town of Kyneton, while the region is also famous for its wineries and vineyards. The house itself looks across a gentle landscape, which is almost English in feel during the green spring season before the summer sun starts to bleach the countryside. Mount Macedon lies off in the distance and the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, while eagles, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and other bird life enjoy the quiet of this rural setting, about an hour’s drive north of Melbourne, where Wolveridge bases his architectural practice.

‘Because we are quite elevated here we do get a huge amount of bird life passing through,’ says Wolveridge. ‘There’s this plant called onion weed that grows wild among the grass here and when the cockatoos get onto it they will come in their thousands and hoe the ground getting the onion weed out. We have swallows in the garage and a couple of turtles in the dam and the kangaroo life is quite incredible. We back onto a state forest so they will start making their way out of the forest around four in the afternoon and get into the open. It’s really special.’

The site was first discovered by two of Wolveridge’s own clients, who asked him to design a substantial home on the hill but changed their minds during the process, commissioning a beach house in Torquay instead. Despite knowing little about the area before hand, Wolveridge was hooked by the location and offered to buy the land.

‘I was single at the time and in the mood to find something outside Melbourne and I liked the idea of doing an off the grid house,’ says Wolveridge. ‘Originally it was going to be a weekender but then I hooked up with my wife Christina and before we knew it our children came along. So we agreed to have a crack at it fuil time.’

Given the contours of the land and the woodland around the approach road, the house only reveals itself once you draw into the driveway and begin to make your way towards it, just as the open vista of the gently undulating countryside also comes into sight. The house is single storey, looking out across the landscape, and draws inspiration from the region’s farmhouses and agricultural barns and sheds, although the outline and form are distinctly contemporary.

The exterior coat of the house is made of recycled blackbutt timber, pierced by large picture windows. A front porch is partially clad in a non-reflective, smoked charcoal glass, which is repeated on the protruding shower block at the back of the house, complete with a large window that frames a view of a landmark spotted gum tree. The exterior shell and basic layout of the house came first and only then did Wolveridge and his wife turn their attention to the interiors.

‘I can honestly say that we designed the shell of the building and got some plans together but we didn’t design the fit out in detail until we were up and running, which is quite a departure from the way that we would normally work,’ says Wolveridge. ‘We built the house ourselves over the course of a year but all we had for the inside was a line of service spaces down the middle of the house and some basic principles.’

The interiors evolved more gradually, with a number of contributions from Wolveridge’s wife, Christina Theodorou, who is also an architect. At the centre of the house sits an open plan living area, including the kitchen, with banks of floor to ceiling windows to front and back. Floors are in polished concrete and the high ceilings are in blackbutt. Many elements here are custom designed, including the kitchen island, which has the feel of a rustic work bench. The dramatic, textured wall to one side that holds the fireplace, as well as disguising a galley study beyond, was crafted from a vast collection of timber blocks.

‘It’s made with recycled bearers from a timber yard, which are usually used to hold up timber floors,’ says Wolveridge. ‘There are about 1680 pieces in all and we saw them sitting out in the back of the yard and paid a few bucks for them. We used a drop saw and went through several loads of timber. It was a bit of work but again we didn’t really know what we were going to do there until the last minute. It was one of the last things we did and spends half the year with ‘happy birthday Sophia’ pinned on it or something like that.’

Wolveridge also designed the leather sofas and the coffee table, while the dining table was bought in Melbourne and the chairs were discovered on a trip to Sri Lanka, where they once graced the office of legendary 20th century architect Geoffrey Bawa. Beyond the fireplace wall, as well as the galley study, there are two bedrooms: one for the children, Sophia and Daniel, and the other doubling as a guest bedroom and playroom.

The master suite sits at the opposite end of the house, with a combined bedroom and bathroom featuring a sculpted bath by Boyd Design. The service spine at the centre of the house contains the shower room plus a utility space, complete with a wood burning stove that is used to heat up the radiators in winter. Being completely off the grid, the house also has its own water source, solar heated hot water and a back up generator.

Wolveridge worked on the landscaping around the house with his father, the well respected golf course designer Michael Wolveridge. Together they reshaped the dam near the house and planted around 700 trees, including native eucalyptus plus an array of maples and fruit trees. A garden shed and a garage, which can double as a fire shelter, are discreetly tucked into the landscaping while Wolveridge created an outdoor dining area and lounge at the back of the house, which is sheltered from the breezes that sometimes lick the brow of the hill.

It is an extraordinary, escapist setting for the whole family, with Wolveridge happy to commute to the office in Melbourne early in the morning for part of the week. ‘I have long days in the office but I do work from home one day a week as well and we do have a handful of projects up this way, as well as beach houses. I can go and see the country clients or they can visit the house. But it is so pleasant up here that sometimes I don’t want to get in the car – you really don’t want to leave.’

 

Wolveridge Architects – www.wolveridge.com.au