When it comes to housing in Australia, it's often the case that bigger is perceived better. In reality, we all have limited budgets, so bigger often means compromising on quality. We'll skimp on the natural stone benchtop to add a butlers pantry (even though we don't have a butler). We'll scrap the hardwood floors if it means we can squeeze in a cinema room. While these tradeoffs may seem like you're getting more bang for your buck, we're ultimately creating homes which cost more to run and maintain and much of that space is superfluous in day-to-day life. Oikos at Breakneck Gorge, near Hepburn Springs is a short-term holiday rental, but what it demonstrates is prioritising high-quality design and finishes might mean sacrificing a bit of space, but the space you do have will be more functional and exude a luxury that space alone cannot provide.
Designed by Robert Nichol & sons, Oikos is set on a striking hillside, just outside of Hepburn Springs, taking in spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The most important things for the architects was to provide privacy for the existing residence, without sacrificing the panoramic views. They also wanted to create a building that complemented the landscape rather than detracted from it.
A windowless, sculptural facade of weathering steel facing the existing residence achieved all this, providing privacy and durability while also developing a natural rust colour which softens into the natural landscape. The building opens up to the views, with large, picture-frame windows and a deck spilling outdoors.
"Oikos evokes the red centre of this great southern land – its dramatic, sculptural form both complementing and disappearing into the rugged precipice on which it stands. The retreat is subtle in scale yet rich in design, offering the best inbuilt architectural form and natural landscape setting."
The design is carefully detailed inside and out, to create a high-quality building which will stand the test of time and require very little maintenance. If you take this approach to your own home, you'll spend time enjoying your home rather than maintaining it.
Natural finishes dominate the interior, creating a rich and textural space. Angled timber ceilings give a sense of drama, yet feel warm on comforting. Views of distant treelines are carefully framed so every room can enjoy the surrounds.
Perhaps the only room where space is not spared is the ensuite bathroom. This generous space is the epitome of luxury, where a large freestanding bath takes in endless views of the area. Textural tiles and natural stone amp up the sense of occasion in this unique room. This is the kind of luxury you can justify if you limit the overall size of your home.
Of course, Oikos is a short-term rental, not an everyday family home. But the lesson is, if we focus on the essentials, it allows us to spend more on making those spaces rich, unique and long-lasting. Designing our homes in this way enriches our everyday lives, means your investment will age well and you'll spend less of your hard-earned fixing and maintaining.