This is a new sustainable home for a couple wanting to move to the country and 'downsize'. We see downsizing as re-focus rather than reduction. We challenge the notion that later stages of life should be about shedding – moving from smaller to smaller box. Instead of culling space and parting from belongings, we strongly believe that a new environment can celebrate life. Read more

We started with an investigation into the current and anticipated life of our clients and encouraged them to adjust the brief and re-focused on the things that matter. What are not only the needs but also the opportunities of a couple heading into retirement? Their home needs to be retreat, but offer opportunities for communing with visiting family and friends. Hobbies like gardening, sewing, reading and valued items that may have been collected over a lifetime are to be accommodated. Universal design principles for future needs and assisted living requirements were important considerations.

Our design solution was to ensure the house can be used comfortably by two people. It is zoned into three areas on the main level: communal, retreat and a downstairs guest wing. The communal space allows for meals and gatherings. The retreat wing, with sewing room, bedroom, study, and lookout is separated from the communal space through a breezeway. The guest living area and bedroom are downstairs – easily closed off when not in use.

As new residents to the Castlemaine region, we offered the couple a sustainable home that is contextually respectful: that not only enhances the local site and landscape context, but also responds to the local architectural vernacular. Like other regional projects, the spirit and character of the new home should also be informed by the challenging climatic conditions.

The house sits on a sloping site outside Castlemaine with potential views of the township. The building is over two levels and semi set into the ground which allows for level access to/from the carport, service courtyard, vegetable garden and outdoor terrace. The retreat wing is slightly elevated with the master bedroom and study forming a lookout point with views over the township. The downstairs guest wing, designed for visitors with children, has direct access to the large-grassed area in front.

The building form is generated from internal functional requirements, but external materials are drawn from context with the use of Castlemaine rock and charred timber.

Our design celebrates the couple’s lives and their achievements. She is a librarian – a bookshelf literally forms the backbone of the house – it morphs into the external wall and can be experienced from outside as you approach the entrance. She also likes to sew – the sewing room is the centrepiece of the retreat wing. It is well lit, allows for views but is enclosed and feels sheltered. He is an academic who likes to retreat to read and contemplate – the study is conceived as a private lookout and is located at the highest point of the home furthest away from the communal areas.

For future mobility ramps navigate the main level and the home includes accessible bathrooms. Living on a single level only is possible while downstairs can be a separate dwelling with its own entrance.

This sustainable home, placed carefully into its context, attempts to reconcile the practical requirements for a home for aging people with the opportunity for a built recognition of its inhabitants’ lives.