The striking house blending into its surrounds

RIGHT AT HOME: The Invermay House used to stand out, but as the timber continues to age is blending more into the tones of the surrounding bushland. Photos: Michael Kai.
RIGHT AT HOME: The Invermay House used to stand out, but as the timber continues to age is blending more into the tones of the surrounding bushland. Photos: Michael Kai.

On paper, this family home in Victoria's Invermay ticks all the usual boxes: an open plan kitchen/living/meals area, three bathrooms, a kids retreat, garage, study and multiple bedrooms (granted, there are five) to comfortably house a growing family.

The reality however, is far more spectacular. Taking in a dramatic view of nearby Ballarat, the Invermay House won its architect Mick Moloney from Moloney Architects the Rising Star award at the 2015 Australian Timber Design Awards and is a striking piece of architecture that stands out within its native bush surrounds, yet as the years go by also manages to fit into the landscape beautifully.

Moloney recalls that the sloping site proved a challenge, as the plan was for the living space to have direct access to outside, but also cantilever enough over the hillside so it could jut out past the mature trees and enjoy the view. "The design addresses this by opening the main living space up to both the north and west sides," says Moloney. "The north side opens at ground level to the small terrace, with plans to extend this to include a pool area. The west end cantilevers by 5.5 metres so that it can capture the view and features a huge timber batten shading screen to control solar gain."

Another unique design feature that sets this family homes apart is the master bedroom being open to the living room below. This allows the master suite to access the main view, but doesn't provide much acoustic privacy. Moloney notes that his clients really liked the idea, so were happy to compromise.

LAY OF THE LAND: The design opens the main living space up to both the north and west sides of the block.

LAY OF THE LAND: The design opens the main living space up to both the north and west sides of the block.

Externally, the home encompasses a minimal palette thanks to the use of concrete, glass, timber, and timber battens. "These material elements are composed into a strong geometric composition that references the verticality of the interior," says Moloney. "We were also interested in using materials to reinforce the project's architectural ideas. We have used heavyweight materials - off-form board marked concrete and charcoal split-face concrete block - to anchor the form to the hillside and provide a sense of robustness and permanence.

"In contrast, we've used lightweight timber cladding to provide a sense of lightness to the upper floor and cantilevered form. Full height glass bands separate the heavy and light materials - with delicate timber battens modulating the direct north and western light in-between."

Being situated in a bushfire prone area dictated that the house be built using naturally fire-resistant timbers, in this instance blackbutt window frames and spotted gum cladding. "Interestingly, a few years on the timbers have all greyed off and it looks remarkably different," says Moloney. "The building used to stand out, but as it continues to grey off it's blending more into the tones of the surrounding bushland."

MIXED MATERIALS: Externally, the home encompasses a minimal palette thanks to the use of concrete, glass, timber, and timber battens.

MIXED MATERIALS: Externally, the home encompasses a minimal palette thanks to the use of concrete, glass, timber, and timber battens.