An original trio of cottages has evolved into a contemporary and calm family retreat, without surrendering its original blueprint.
Set beneath a towering sequoia tree with views of surrounding vineyards, a property originally purchased in May 2013 began life as three disparate cottages. The owners promptly gutted the cottages and joined them with a walkway, renovated the spaces and opened Orchard Keepers – a guest house that they ran successfully for ten years, attracting guests from here and abroad during that time.
While the main cottage had been created to meet the owners’ taste aesthetically, beautiful, charming and full of history, it was impractical as a full-time home. A lack of insulation, thermally-glazed windows, heating, cooling, storage and other essential ‘mod cons’ made it a challenging day-to-day proposition. Plus, there was the fact that it was slowly falling apart.
The owners engaged Melbourne-based practice Clare Cousins Architects to realise their long-term vision and rebuild the main section of the property to include a kitchen, laundry, powder room, study, dining room, living room, main bedroom, ensuite and robe. “I wanted to rebuild this section of the property while maintaining the connection to the other cottage because I didn’t feel the need to knock the entire thing down as I’ve seen many people do. It was important for me to marry the old with the new,” Orchard Keepers owner Poss Sampieri says. “Clare did a fantastic job with this.”
Clare Cousins was also engaged to renovate the adjoining cottage, which now has two bedrooms, each with an ensuite and an informal living area. The property’s footprint was extended to include the addition of a double garage and a separate barn for machinery, which also houses a bathroom, a commercial kitchen and an upstairs living area fitted out by the client. Another addition, a fledgling truffle farm of 400 French Oak trees was planted after much research and land preparation in 2019, with the first truffles expected in season 2024.
The home fuses the raw and refined, resulting in a warm minimalism reflected through organic materiality, influenced by the surrounding landscape. This is seen in the considered use of timber, with all of the home’s joinery, ceiling and walls crafted from spotted gum panelling from Big River Timbers.
The raw element further manifests through the use of concrete on the home’s floors, kitchen and island bench and basins in all the bathrooms, while the use of organic brushed brass in tapware and the kitchen’s custom double sink add a warm tactility.
The living room is both expansive and immersive. The space is anchored by a remarkable circular brick chimney and fireplace and also features a cantilevered concrete ledge offering a casual place to perch both inside and out. “With such a rich landscape, we intended to keep the building’s form simple and respectful of its context,” Clare says. “Once within, the spaces open generously to the surrounds while maintaining the warm intimacy expected of a farmhouse.”
Poss engaged a friend with a great eye, Storie Studio’s Sue Carroll, to help with interiors, objects and art and friend Unearthed Garden‘s Bec Dentry, whose wood stackers feature beside the living room’s fireplace and outdoors at the rear entry and garage wall.
When asked about her vision being realised, Poss reflects, “I wanted to enhance the overall sense of connection to the outdoors. So the living room is open to the property bringing nature in, almost creating artwork for the space, and of course, it frames the fireplace too.”