Text description provided by the architects. Trentham is a slow-paced kind of place. Nestled atop the Great Dividing Range 100km north of Melbourne, this once-upon-a-time gold mining town is now a quiet country escape whose inhabitants relish its crisp, cool country air and quiet, traffic-free streets. It's only appropriate then that visiting Trentham Long House is akin to stepping back in time. Indeed, the house is a delicately balanced moment between old-fashioned simplicity and the conveniences of contemporary life.
Located within a recent semi-rural development on the periphery of the town, the project brief was to design an energy efficient, low maintenance single dwelling on a large, north-facing site for a retired couple, their visiting children, and grandchildren. The clients wanted a home that would sit well within its local and historical context, provide a comfortable and easy home year round, and also adapt to accommodate large family gatherings scattered throughout the year.
Surrounded to the north, east, and west at reasonably close proximity by neighboring properties and to the south by the main road, Trentham Long House is positioned centrally on the block, with almost equal parts rear and front garden. The design contends with the precarious task of maximizing idyllic views whilst maintaining privacy by retreating from its boundaries. Its careful placement enhances selected vistas whilst also defining a quiet, private realm set back from the public face of the street.
Conceived as a collection of contemporary farm buildings gathered under one expansive gable roof, the house's form is immediately provocative of the traditional farming structures that once inhabited the local area. This elegant architectural response places the old machinery shed (garage), drive through loading zone, and main farmhouse (complete with a central farmhouse kitchen and wood burning stove) in one singular structure and deftly satisfies the three distinct requirements of the brief in one swift, effortless movement.
The building's muted material palette subtly and effectively reflects the surrounding environment, echoing buildings of the past. The spotted gum exterior cladding is left to naturally patina, relying on its innate aptitude to develop character and camouflage over time. In line with the project's humble architectural intent, the building plan is reassuringly simple. It's elongated, the gable-roofed structure is neatly divided into parts according to the daily patterns and needs prescribed by a low-tech, country life.
One first approach the house via a meandering drive that begins in the northeast and slowly traverses the northern half of the site until arriving at the garage, strategically positioned at the far western edge of the structure and acting as a welcome buffer to the heat of the western sun. Between here and the house sits the covered carport that acts as a quick and convenient every day loading zone and provides the happy dual function of framing the view towards a bank of mature eucalypts that line the southern edge of the property. The carport shelters the guest bedrooms and provides a breezy link between the working side of the farm and the main house.
Unsurprisingly, the arrangement of the living quarters is deliberate and concise. A dual faced hearth lies quite literally at the center of the house, providing an inviting gathering point and gently delineating the eating and living spaces. The unfussy interior allows the architectural volumes to speak loudly, reverberating in the language of the traditional farmhouse that this space is one of simple gathering and well-deserved repose.
The living, dining, and kitchen are sited within this core open plan area and are wide open spaces, spreading both vertically into the vaulted ceiling and horizontally into the landscape beyond. Treatment of the northern wall in this public space is truly contemporary, consisting of a layered arrangement of a double-glazed floor to ceiling windows and movable screens that allow a flexible relationship between inside and out, warmth and coolness, sunshine and shade, openness and privacy.
Abutted at both ends by the house's private sleeping zones and service areas, the central room is a space that can just as easily accommodate one or two as it could a dozen. Trentham Long House skilfully draws reference from its local context and confidently negotiates the owners' requirements for an energy efficient, low maintenance dwelling that urges everyday practicality and an emphasis on life's simple pleasures.