After meeting at University and working in Melbourne for some top architectural firms on both residential and commercial projects, Mick and Jules Moloney took a tree-change and set up their own architectural practice in Ballarat – Moloney Architects.

With the busy practice taking up the front two rooms of their century old weatherboard home and three children and a dog, an extension quickly became necessary. And so architects become clients and the Wooden Box House is conceived.

The Moloneys knew they wanted to take advantage of the northern light, to open up the back of the house to the backyard and to create a liveable but aesthetically pleasing space. As Mick Moloney explained, “We believe in the capacity of good design to greatly improve our day-to-day experience of life. The architecture that we inhabit is in many ways an extension of ourselves. If our spaces are carefully designed and considered – we can immerse ourselves in built representations of our favourite qualities. As designers we want our spaces to be inviting, refined, warm and inspirational.”

Many clients comment that they are attracted to the warmth of Moloney’s interiors – a key element of that warmth is the use of natural timbers such as unpainted Ecoply plywood® and black-faced Formrite® with its plywood edges, both manufactured by Carter Holt Harvey. “We love Ecoply plywood and Formrite for their warmth and texture. We like using unpainted timber to suggest connections to the landscape. There is a tactility to real timber that makes people want to run their hand over a surface. Timber appeals to everyone.”

Ecoply has been used throughout the extension, most evident in the ceiling of the kitchen and surrounding the window seat in the living room while Formrite is the predominant material in the kitchen cabinetry and custom-made light. “Ecoply and Formrite are attractive because they are affordable and offer a very durable finish for young kids who tend to beat up houses,” added Moloney.

But it’s not all about the kids. The builders loved using the Ecoply - it's a hands-on material that doesn't require much in the way of finishing. On the ceiling they could see the finished product as soon as it went up. The joinery contractors weren't experienced with using formply - so they were hesitant at first. Formrite is usually used for concrete formwork but its durability and smooth protective coating makes it suitable for cabinetry. By the end of the project the joiners were taking photos of it on their phones and saying they would use it in their own homes.

“Sustainability is a critical factor that informs our material selections. We like using timber over more high-embodied-energy material as its production actually captures atmospheric carbon,” said Moloney.

Ecoply and Formrite are manufactured from sustainably grown Australian and New Zealand plantation pine. Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is recognised as the preferred cradle-to-grave basis for comparing the environmental impact of products, including building materials. On a limited LCA basis, building in wood sourced from sustainably-managed plantations represents a net removal of carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere for at least the life of the structure. As such, building in wood sourced from sustainably-managed plantations can therefore make a positive contribution to combating climate change. Which is good news for the next generation.

What’s next for the Moloneys? “There are plenty of projects on the go. We're currently designing a new house that will use Ecoply and Formrite, but it's not due for construction until 2019,” says a very busy Mick Moloney.

Photographer: Christine Francis