A retired couple in the rural township of Bellbrae along the Surf Coast in Victoria engaged Wiesebrock Architecture to design a forever home on their 10-acre property.

Though the project began with a renovation and extension brief, the existing house was in poor shape to withstand any building work. It was then decided to build a new house on the footprint of the original house. The new brief sought a house that could accommodate a range of occupants from the retired couple to their extended family who visited occasionally, while avoiding budget blowouts and costly ongoing maintenance. Keeping in mind the owners’ deep appreciation for preserving the natural environment, the architects decided to salvage materials from the old house for use in the new home.

Completed in 2019, the new 180-square-metre forever home features two pavilions connected by a large central deck. The main pavilion has a single bedroom house for the couple while the second pavilion is a two-bedroom house with a shared bathroom and kitchenette designed to accommodate visiting family or friends. The second house can be closed down and shut off from the main house to conserve energy and minimise maintenance when not in use.

The communal deck frames glorious valley views and provides a sunny northern aspect to the living areas and bedrooms. The architects have wrapped the house in a robust galvanised steel external envelope while softening the interiors with the warmth of timber, which will provide a lifetime of low maintenance to the owners.

Timber framing is used throughout the Bellbrae house with spans kept to a minimum to avoid steel and large lintels. For larger spans, prefabricated roof trusses are used to shape the gable forms, including scissor trusses over the main living area.

Photography: Ben Hosking