A Sydney-based family sought a calming respite from their busy city lives, so they decided to buy a farm in the New South Wales countryside. They were then faced with the logistical challenges of building in a rural location—such as weather delays, and the task of coordinating multiple trades in a setting almost a four-hours’ drive from their permanent home. So, they decided to approach Modscape to design and build a modular, prefab holiday home.
"As the clients didn’t live in the area, they were hesitant to build conventionally," says Jan Gyrn, Managing Director of Modscape. "To avoid any headaches, they engaged us to undertake the design and conduct the construction off-site in our controlled factory."
The tranquil 190-hectare working farm is located close to Kangaroobie, a tiny town with just 41 residents near Orange in New South Wales—an area known for its rolling countryside, heritage towns, gourmet wineries, and scenic national parks. "The initial brief was for an energy-efficient home that maximizes on the beautiful valley views," says Gyrn. "Sited on a ridge, the home follows the lay of the land and is orientated to take advantage of the beautiful views toward Mount Canobolas."
The 225-square-meter, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is built from just three modules. These fully welded structural steel frames were finished—including painting, tiling, and cabinetry—in the Modscape factory prior to being delivered to site. It took 12 weeks to construct the home off-site, and just a single day to install it on-site with a crane. "Two weeks later it was complete, and the clients could put the kettle on," says Gyrn.
There is no set module size or shape for a Modscape home, and the modules can be placed either side-by-side or end-to-end to create impressive interior volumes. "This enables great flexibility in the design," says Gyrn. "From a modular point of view, the Kangaroobie home is very efficient."
The three modules have been fitted together to create a T-shaped plan, with separate wings for living, sleeping, and utilities. This arrangement allows the home to open up to the surrounding landscape and expansive views over the valley to the south. "It is a simple volume with a linear approach that follows the contours of the land," says Gyrn. "The design was very much driven by budget."
While the clients have kept the budget for Project Kangaroobie confidential, the majority of Modscape homes cost AU $3,000 to $4,000 plus tax per square meter, reveals Gyrn. "Due to the way we design, manufacture, and deliver our projects, we require full design resolution and documentation before we undertake any building works," he says. "This enables us to deliver absolute price certainty—with no surprises on the way."
Throughout the home, windows and doors have been carefully placed to frame views from every room, including the bathrooms. In the living area, for example, a long, low window is positioned to frame the tree line, while the large, glazed wall looking out to the west over the substantial timber deck perfectly captures the spectacular sunsets.
One of the defining features of the home is an enclosed porch, situated at the junction of the living and services modules, which offers a vantage point to watch the weather roll up the valley. "It’s a great feature of the house," says Gyrn. "The area gets chilly during mornings and evenings, so the outdoor fireplace enables the clients to stay warm outside long into the night."
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This outdoor brick fireplace also plays a key role in anchoring the project—it’s a pivot point from which the wings of the house extend. Firewood can be stacked in an integrated nook beside the minimal fireplace, adding texture and visual interest to the wall.
The long, low house is simply clad in vertical silvertop ash timber, which will gradually develop a silver patina over time and blend into the landscape. "Apart from small glimpses into the interior upon approach, the facade gives little away as to the interior design of the rest of the house," says Gyrn.
Inside, the material palette is primarily neutral—think timber, ceramic tiles, and Scyon composite cladding—but with surprising details that imbue the home with character. In the bathroom, for example, the floor tiles are a bold green; and the handmade-look white brick tiles in the bathroom and kitchen echo the brickwork used on the outdoor fireplace.
Sustainable features were also important to the clients. The home is insulated with structural insulated panels in the floor, ceiling, and walls; it has double-glazed windows throughout; and it incorporates passive design principles such as appropriate sun shading and clever use of natural cross ventilation. Although it is currently connected to mains power, the home has the ability to function completely off-grid.
"The key challenge with this project was to create a design that fulfilled the clients’ brief and aligned with their budget," says Gyrn. "Regular online communication and refinement of the design helped to successfully marry the brief with the budget with the creation of a home that is very efficient from a modular point of view. This helped to control costs, and ensured they could get a big house on a small footprint.
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Photographer: John Madden
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