Cross-Laminated Timber Gives This Renovated 1970s Australian Farmhouse a Bold Look

Cross-Laminated Timber Gives This Renovated 1970s Australian Farmhouse a Bold Look

By Lauren Jones / Photos by Dianna Snape
A new second floor and a striking sawtooth roof transform the agricultural home into something chic and modern.

For Fiona Dunn of Melbourne-based FMD Architects, CLT House, the firm’s latest project, is a special one. For the last decade, Dunn and her team have worked with homeowners Peter and Sue to reimagine the couple's 1970s single-story farmhouse through an internal renovation and second-story addition.

Located on a 19-acre working farm, CLT House pays homage to the agricultural area's vernacular architectural language with its pitched roof.

 "We started working on the interiors of the original house first. Eventually, that got put on hold and we started the new extension, later doing everything together," Dunn recalls. 

CLT can't be exposed to inclement weather so another material, Colorbond steel in a matte dark gray, was used for the dramatic facade.

The most interesting element of this particular home is its use of cross-laminated timber (CLT), a layered wood product that eliminates the need for steel and concrete construction. It can also sequester carbon, making it an eco-friendly material. 

CLT was virtually unheard of in Australia 10 years ago, says Dunn. First the team had to do extensive research into this material, figuring out what was structurally and architecturally possible to build with it. Then came the matter of locating manufacturers and determining what size and thickness to choose "to get the most out of it and avoid wastage," she says. Today, CLT House is a prime example of sustainable innovation in practice, one that lays the foundation for continued usage of cross-laminated timber in single residential projects. 

The upstairs is a multifunctional space for the owners to go for peace and quiet and views of the garden, but it's also their grandchildren's favorite spot.

Located in Mornington Peninsula, an hour’s drive from Melbourne and a popular weekend getaway, CLT House is the couple's secondary residence. They’ve always had an inner-city home, but have spent more and more time at their rural retreat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has even become the temporary hub for Peter’s business as he isn’t able to work from his office. 

The simple interiors complement the usage of CLT throughout.

One of the main reasons for the intensive renovation was the need for more space to accommodate Peter and Sue's visiting children and grandchildren. Separate spaces for their children and grandchildren were a must, as well as a multifunctional second story. Dunn included the principal en-suite, library, bar, and steam room on this second floor. "It’s a flexible space where they can throw parties, hang out, enjoy the garden, and take in incredible views of the ocean," Dunn says. 

The stairwell features mesh detailing, a product used in landscaping. "We quite liked it because it was agricultural and referenced rural fencing that you see outside. It's almost like chicken wire fencing," Dunn says.

From the beginning, Peter wanted to experiment with CLT. The new portions of the home utilize CLT, while the exterior is clad in Colorbond steel, a nod to the site’s agricultural vernacular. The sawtooth roof pitches to the north, while slotted windows bring in cross-ventilation and triangular-shaped ones capture sunlight.

The geometric piece of CLT above the island is actually a light fixture in disguise, concealing  embedded LED lights.

On the ground floor, which wasn’t livable in its original state, the firm re-insulated all of the walls and double glazed the windows. The plan called for a larger kitchen, which includes a granite island and overhead CLT light fixture. A pantry and scullery were also added to the back, as well as a new mudroom and laundry area. The bedrooms and bathrooms were renovated, as well. "The bedrooms downstairs are now more suitable to their adult children and they can have room to separate if they desire," Dunn says. 

A longstanding relationship between FMD Architects and CCB Envico made this project possible.

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Overall, the home’s muted color palette, creative usage of CLT, and multipurpose second story make it a home unlike any other. "We try to avoid looking at reference images and invent instead of reproduce," concludes Dunn. This project is certainly an invention that will continue to inspire the architects and the homeowners for years to come.

Related Reading: Six Gable Roofs Cap This Brilliantly Bizarre Atlanta Home

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: FMD Architects /@fmdarchitects

Builder/General Contractor: CCB Envico

Structural Engineer: Vistek Engineering/@vistek.eng

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