An Affordable Prefab Home Frames the Rugged Landscape in Rural Australia

An Affordable Prefab Home Frames the Rugged Landscape in Rural Australia

By Mandi Keighran
A single day is all it took to install this modular home on a working farm near Orange, New South Wales.

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.

The home is respectful to the rural site and champions the view. Thanks to the prefab construction, there was very little earthwork and minimal site impact. This approach also helped to eliminate potential weather delays—which would have been likely as, owing to the high altitude, the area frequently experiences frost and snow in winter months.

"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."

Floor-to-ceiling glazing ensures natural light is plentiful throughout the home. The silvertop ash cladding on the exterior will develop a silver-gray patina over time.

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 home is oriented to take in views of Mount Canobolas in the Great Dividing Range. With an elevation of 4,577 feet, the extinct volcano is the highest mountain in the region. 

The living spaces are designed to remain clutter-free and open toward the view. Services, including the mudroom, laundry, and family bathroom, are located in a separate wing to the rear of the home.

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.

The kitchen is at the heart of the home, and the layout is arranged so that the views can be appreciated when preparing a meal. Warm timber shelves and furniture contrast with the dark kitchen joinery to create a balanced interior palette.

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 master bedroom suite, located at the end of the sleeping wing, features a private deck with views to the east.

Although there are gathering areas and fluid spaces throughout the home, there are also intimate nooks, such as window seats in the bedrooms.

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."

The simple, affordable material palette allows the home to sit comfortably within the natural landscape.

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."

The clients fell in love with the double-sided Cheminees Philippe fireplace, which had been used in a previous Modscape project they had seen. "It works nicely in this home to help subtly define each space, and it’s a stunning feature," says Modscape managing director Jan Gyrn.

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.

A deck opens up to the west from the main living space, and it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. A long, low window at the rear of the space frames the tree line.

The open-plan dining area, kitchen, and living room are arranged in the living wing. The dining and living spaces are separated by the kitchen island and fireplace, so each functional zone is clearly defined. There are also plenty of breakout spaces that cater to a wide range of activities.

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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An enclosed porch with a fireplace sits between the living wing and the services wing, providing a pivotal point from which the home fans out.

The view from the enclosed porch over the surrounding farmland. Large overhangs provide effective sun shading and protection from inclement weather.

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 outdoor fireplace is one of the defining features of the home.

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.

The secondary living space in the service wing completely opens up to the enclosed timber deck through sliding glass doors.

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.

Green floor tiles add a surprising pop of color to this bathroom.

Even the bathrooms have spectacular views. A skylight allows glimpses of the sky from the shower.  

The handmade-look white brick tiles on the kitchen backsplash echo the brickwork used on the outdoor fireplace. They help to provide visual continuity from the exterior to the interior.

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 long, low home sits unobtrusively atop the ridge. Large areas of glazing open the home to the landscape to the south.

"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.

Ground-floor plan of Project Kangaroobie by Modscape.

Elevation of Project Kangaroobie by Modscape

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