This Weekend Getaway Gives the Traditional American Barn an Australian Twist

This Weekend Getaway Gives the Traditional American Barn an Australian Twist

By Mandi Keighran
Paul Uhlmann Architects creates a spectacular rural retreat for a young family on a sprawling property in Queensland.

A weekend getaway can be many things. For a city-dwelling Brisbane couple with four children, it takes the form of a large barn-style home in Pullenvale, a rural suburb just a 25-minute drive from Brisbane’s central business district.

The couple asked Paul Uhlmann Architects—who they had worked with previously—for a rural getaway for their family and friends. "They had spent time in the United States and fell in love with the large red American barns that dot the countryside," says Uhlmann. "During the design process, this was reinterpreted into a form that has references to the Australian outback shed."

The home is called The Barn, as it was inspired by the American barns that the couple admired on travels throughout the United States.

The site lies at the end of a valley fronting onto a nature reserve, and a long driveway flanked by sprawling jacaranda trees leads to the home. The family selected the secluded site for its privacy and its location, which is a relatively short drive from their city home.

The Barn is a weekend retreat for family and friends. It also allows the family to spend time with their horses, which are kept in a nearby paddock.

Described by Uhlmann as "rural shed architecture", the home is constructed from Australian hardwood. It features custom corrugated orb Zincalume roof sheeting, which references the archetypal Australian farmhouse. The rounded shape of the roof—which is reflected in the ceiling structure internally—is a contemporary reinterpretation of this form.

A garage is located at the rear of the home. The large overhang of the roof provides shading to the bunk room windows.

"We looked to American barns and some contemporary versions of this typology," says Uhlmann. "Most of these designs had at least one double-height space, which in this case has been incorporated in the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen space."

The soaring, timber-clad ceilings of the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area follow the curve of the corrugated Zincalume roof, creating an impressive volume with views over the valley.

This main living space boasts cathedral-like ceilings and expansive views directly down the valley onto the reserve through the glazed gable ends of the barn. "The windows look down to the paddocks below and the reserve," says Uhlmann. "This was the predominant view that we wanted to capture and celebrate in a dramatic way both from the ground floor and first floor."

The living area completely opens up to the exterior, dissolving the boundary between inside and outside. The stone flooring in the living area is from Eco Outdoor.

Sliding timber doors on both sides of the living space open directly into the landscape, inviting the outdoors in. This also allows natural cross ventilation and the ability for the young children to run in and out of the house as they please. To the northwest, the living space opens onto an outdoor deck shaded by a timber canopy.

The vertical lines of the timber facade and the corrugated Zincalume roof create a simple, graphic rhythm across the entire home. 

The open-plan kitchen, living, and dining space is located at the southwestern end of the ground floor. A games room, media room, and mudroom lie off to one side, and a garage stands at the rear.

The antler chandeliers above the kitchen table are from local lighting store Milton Lighting.

The entire interior—including bespoke joinery and furniture—is crafted from timber.

On the first floor, the master bedroom and ensuite look through to the double-height living space. Two guest bedrooms and a large bunk room that sleeps twelve are also located on the first floor. The two guest bedrooms feature skylights to bring natural ventilation and light into the interior. "From the beds, you can watch the clouds go past during the day, and the stars by night," says Uhlmann.

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The weekend retreat is designed to accommodate large family and friend groups, with two guest bedrooms and a bunk room that sleeps 12.

The timber-framed bunk beds are built into the soaring space.

One of the major challenges was balancing the client’s budget with their expectations—and hiring a builder who shared the same vision of craftsmanship as Uhlmann was essential. "We had completed a project before for the same client, using the same builder, therefore there was some understanding of the overall quality," says Uhlmann. "We were not involved during the construction, however—therefore the builder had to interpret quite a few joints and connections, which he did very well."

Skylights in the roof allow natural light and ventilation into the guest bedrooms, which don't have windows.

The walls of the home are fine band-sawn spotted gum, oiled with a grey tint, and recycled hardwood beams are used throughout the interior. The result is a celebration of timber craftsmanship with exceptional carpentry. The vast amount of timber used throughout the construction creates a sensory experience, filling the interior with a strong aroma of wood.

The home has a simple, linear plan that balances open spaces with more cozy, private rooms. The sliding doors at the side of the home can either be completely closed to the elements in winter, or opened in the warmer months.

"The most rewarding part of this project is the central living space," says Uhlmann. "It has a large scale, however the natural light doesn’t overwhelm the space, which can tend to happen with Australia’s harsh light. It is instantly relaxing, and an overall memorable experience once you’re within this central space."

The main living space leads onto a side deck with a timber canopy, providing a sheltered outdoor space for dining and socializing.

The design team made extensive use of Australian hardwood—both internally and externally— to reference the rural setting.

Ground floor plan of The Barn by Paul Uhlmann Architects. 

First floor plan of The Barn by Paul Uhlmann Architects. 

Northwest and Northeast elevations of The Barn by Paul Uhlmann Architects. 

Southeast and Southwest elevations of The Barn by Paul Uhlmann Architects. 

Site Plan of The Barn by Paul Uhlmann Architects. 

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