The devastating bushfires in Victoria in 2009 changed the lives of many people. Homes were completely destroyed, and in some cases, such as in the township of Marysville, large percentage of the communities were left homeless. Read more

This was the case for a couple with two children who lost their large Edwardian brick house and, ironically, only the brick chimney fireplace remained in the ashes.

Although the house, a two-hour drive from Melbourne, was completely destroyed, the outcome of the fire was that the owners could think about what they really wanted in a weekender – beyond the traditional house with three bedrooms that could be found in their city abode. So, to gain inspiration and direction, Steffen Welsch Architects literally erected a tent and spent a night on this unique site, elevated over gullies. There, the team could enjoy what nature has to offer, whether it was the bird life or the seeing the sprouting new growth.

The pleasure of being in a tent so close to nature inspired the design of the new house, fully clad in blackbutt that will eventually turn a silvery grey. Unlike the former house, the new weekender is considerably smaller, at approximately 80 square metres and instead of three bedrooms, there’s an open plan living area and galley-style kitchen, one bathroom and one large mezzanine-style bedroom for the family. Cranked in form to respond to the site, the light and key views, the house features a series of square portal-style windows that shed a variety of light into the home which features generous five-metre-high ceilings in the living and dining area. The thinking behind this house was about what’s actually needed rather than simply building another large weekender that could be easily replicated in the suburbs.

Unlike the original house with its heavy masonry walls, the new house features essentially one large open space, plywood floors and ceiling, together with a pot-belly fireplace. The kitchen, located below the mezzanine, as is the bathroom, is simply finished in Formply. Likewise, plywood shelves appear in the living area and also for the perforated balustrade that’s been laser cut. Unlike the former arrangement, there are broad outdoor decks and even an outdoor bath, getting as close to nature as possible. And with the lessons learnt from the fire, the rear of this house (orientated to the south-east) features a solid concrete block wall that will reduce the likelihood of embers.

Written by Stephen Crafti