When their daughter emailed them about a 25-acre plot of land for sale on the hillside above the beach at Lorne, a beautiful seaside town on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Roger Nelson, managing director of NH Architecture, and his wife Jane hadn’t known how life-changing it would be. ‘The first day we visited we were greeted by kangaroos, koalas and birds in abundance,’ recalls Jane. ‘It was a wildlife retreat – we were hooked! Sold!’
The journey that followed was seven years of pondering, designing and obtaining an initial planning permit for the site. Situated on a spot that required specific bushfire management planning, nothing about this build was simple.
To help navigate these issues and refine their thoughts on their future home, Roger and Jane turned to Ben Shields, founder and design director at architecture firm Dreamer. He took Roger’s initial sketches of two agricultural-style sheds (one containing the kitchen, dining area and living room; the other the more private bedrooms and bathrooms), separate yet united by a common aesthetic, and added his own ideas to create a place that encourages a slower pace of life.
‘We were really conscious that the house should allow them to escape as much as possible,’ explains Ben, who extended the gabled roofs on the two adjoining buildings to create large covered verandas and walkways.
‘Roger and Jane had this dream of walking out of every room into the landscape.’ The natural materials used also have a calming effect and are restricted to concrete, timber – charred on the exterior, and either raw or stained black inside – and brass, which adds a golden glow to the kitchen. The palette is, says Ben, ‘part of a reductive approach that keeps everything coherent’.
Inside, the furniture has a Scandinavian simplicity. It’s a look that should perhaps have been expected from a couple that, when asked by Ben to share the spaces that inspired them, chose Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, with its stunning sea views across the Øresund strait. The museum’s peaceful, pared-back qualities can certainly be felt here, on the other side of the world.
Now, 11 years since they first set foot on this once overgrown plot of land, the property is complete, but Roger and Jane are not finished. ‘We need to clear the weeds, allow the native grasses and flowers to come back, and ensure that we are part of keeping the town safe from potential fires,’ says Jane, whose plans for rejuvenating the important bushland around their home extend into the next 30 years.
It’s not all work, though, there is still time to relax and enjoy the beauty they have created here. ‘Our favourite spot is right in front of the house, looking out across the water,’ adds Jane. ‘We are both sailors and we delight in those long coastal views.’ dreamerlab.com.au