By David Bromley
To tell this story properly I need to go back about three and a half years.
We were living a life where we were not sure where we’d be waking up in the morning. We’d been renovating a pub in Ballarat which meant sleeping on piled up mattresses on the floor with two young children. It was COLD, the plumbing was stuffed, electrics stuffed, it was smelly and there was a pigeon infestation, so following this a three month job in Brisbane was very welcome, thanks to both the warmer weather and being able to be in one spot for a period of time.
We were starting to get serious about having the children in school, they were being home schooled as we weren’t in one spot long enough to get them into the system, so we were really questioning everything about where home base would be. Daylesford and Melbourne were the constant but we were really throwing everything in the air about where our next landing pad would be.
Driving back to Victoria from Brisbane we discussed whether we’d go to Melbourne or Daylesford. A virtual flip of the coin and we decided on Daylesford. I have a fear of flying, so having lived in Victoria, Adelaide and then half the time in south east Queensland and Byron, I had driven south and north many times. Interestingly though, I had never turned right coming south and driven through Puckapunyal. Taking the right turn, towards Daylesford I mentioned this to Yuge, saying this will be fun… never expecting where this right turn would lead us.
Just a few miles down the road, we started coming upon these stunning rocky outcrops and incredible rock formations, that literally looked like a family of giants had been playing marbles… grand stones in the most unique groupings … some random and scattered and some just teaming with boulders and rocky surfaces. I have seen images of the Joshua Tree and Mojave Desert in the states and always felt so drawn to the landscape, to see something like this right in front of my eyes was pure goosebump inducing delight. Despite 4 or 5 days on the road we stopped the car in a few places so I could photograph this remarkable landscape.
I’m rambling on about how I’ll come back and see if I can meet a few land holders and ride my motorcycle through the area, take photographs and paint the landscape. A bit weary and a little home sick for Victoria I thought Yuge would soon drop a hint that we were only an hour or so from our destination and maybe we should resume our road trip. I was lining up a particularly awe inspiring photograph when I hear screaming and yelling from the car. I ran towards the car presuming I was dealing with a snake or a spider and arrive to find a very excited Yuge exclaiming and gesticulating about a property for sale nearby. Little did I know that whilst the landscape was enchanting me, it had also started to cast a spell on Yuge and she had found a few bars of internet connection to look at nearby real estate.
One particular property had really caught Yuge’s eye. More on the particular reasons why shortly… but I most certainly am always up for a wonderful spontaneous situation and was keen to drive to the property for a look. A few minutes later we found ourselves driving down the driveway. Nearly a hundred acres, it’s not like stepping off the footpath to the front door, so already we felt we were invading someone’s privacy. Not the type to knock on random people’s doors… and Yuge even less inclined …I turned to my left to say would you go to the door, but before my sentence was finished Yuge was already out and headed to the house. Before she answers some questions herself about this property, I’ll let you in on something about Yuge… Yuge LOVES modernist homes! Our usual style of industrial, rustic, Edward Scissorhands meets Addams Family meets Swiss Family Robinson style homes is normally happenstance and budget driven, and many conversations have been had about one day building or seeking out a modernist building. I’d go as far as saying Yuge was more than keen to make these discussions a reality sooner rather than later, thus the immediate jumping out of car for this property. In other circumstances I have begged her to knock on a door or approach a farmer when we have come across a falling down flour mill or near roofless ruin whilst pleading with her about the ruin’s potential, sometimes driving on or being forced to get past my own shyness in order to ask.
So where were we… Yuge JUMPED out of the car. Ever the treasure hunter, I am loving this! I don’t want to paint Yuge as reserved or cautious because she isn’t but compared with me, who pushes the ‘mad plan’ button daily, she is generally not as crazy. So, I assume this property has somehow turned her into me…. I sit back, smile and look forward to the ride.
From turning off the road around Seymour and heading right … I know I was enchanted by the landscape … but you really turned it up a notch. Not saying you aren’t adventurous but you went from zero to a hundred miles an hour very quickly. Was it that the architecture just took you away and you then let all formal constructs and caution go? … because I love living like that and watching you in that few hours was one of the greatest buzzes of my life.
As we drove the road through the town that we didn’t know the name of, I watched with both interest and trepidation as you slowed to about 20k’s in an 80k zone, gasping and exclaiming over the majestic granite boulders. I tried to calm my nerves and keep watch that someone didn’t ram into the back of the car, whilst suggesting you pull over and take some photographs of the surrounding landscape you were so enthralled by. As I sat in the car, my curiosity as to where we were kept growing… I saw 1 bar of 4G appear, so of course the first thing I did was look on maps to see where we were… Tooborac… great. Next thing I search is ‘Tooborac real estate for sale’…it was at that moment I saw the listing and started watching the video. I believe it was at that point that that you heard me belting like a banshee that I’d found a property of my dreams. Was it the architecture? Was it the landscape? Or was it the sliding doors of fate that we chose to drive to Daylesford from Brisbane rather than to Melbourne as we always had done before, which led us through this town we’d never been to? I truly feel it was a combination of the three.
I don’t know if you realise but I actually love doing things that I think you’d love too. I knew you were deeply in love with the landscape – that was very obvious. A sprinkling of me wanted to show you I loved it as much, enough to jump headfirst into a situation that would cause me plenty of stress over the next few months to achieve!
The fact that the architecture of the home was so unique, so modernist but not in a single way promoted as such led me to feel it really was an unnoticed gem. Greeting me at their front door, the owners invited us in on their otherwise peaceful Saturday, welcoming us with warmth and sharing very special details about the history of the property. OK… could I love it any more? The offer was in and accepted that night.
There began our next 3 year journey in our little slice of paradise that at times has been sublime and at times so incredibly challenging to wrangle, upkeep and maintain.
I believe you have very strong leanings toward and at times seemingly unique and very diverse passions … music, fashion, architecture, law, art, and I feel you have great respect for creative visions. I do believe we came across a bit of a hidden and perhaps unchartered / non catalogued modernist gem … it was obviously very clear to you from the outset … is your understanding of architecture academic or instinctive?
We both love looking at and researching on a daily basis, all things related to art, design, architecture and so much more. In regards to whether my understanding of architecture is academic or instinctive, ultimately I think it’s instinctive. I know what I like and am drawn to and once I’ve seen something I like, I tend to then go down the research rabbit hole.
In our life and work, where on a daily basis, we are so immensely engrossed in aesthetic decisions and visual engagement, I guess our visual vocabulary over time expands. One thing I have always enjoyed and delighted in is modernist architecture which really spans such a broad period of time and has its myriad of subtleties across different cities. It definitely has been a look that I’ve loved, but so often I’ve noticed new builds modeled on a modernist aesthetic just don’t quite capture the true essence, practicality and intelligence of authentic modernist architecture.
Built in the early 80’s our Tooborac property has so many elements that hit a chord with me, not least that the architect who designed it, David Maughan, worked for a long time with renowned Australian architect, Robin Boyd. So many details of the home leaned into the aesthetic that was so symbolic of a movement. The rugged landscape of Tooborac meant that the property was designed and built in a way that it embraced and nestled into the land, protecting it from the harshness of the Australian seasons.
Remarkably after nearly 40 years, I still look at the place as if it were only built yesterday…so many details just make so much sense. Since we took on the property, it has in many ways gone through a subtle makeover, highlighting areas that haven’t had an update since it was built and taking these areas on a renewed visual journey that incorporates some of the favourite elements drawn from our years of deep diving into our love of this aesthetic.
A shift in the personality of the gardens, freshen up of tiles, blinds, carpet, it’s been like changing 80’s makeup to a look more classically driven by modernist architecture.
Now we’ve had it for a few years, I think we could say we’ve had our challenges with the property … I know I wish we had a magic wand. You’ve always been a bit cruisier with your interaction with the building and the property, whilst I find I’m often fighting a battle to do justice to it, you seem to have an unwavering belief in the property. Can you describe this if in fact what I’ve said is even a true indication of your feelings?
I know that when it comes to gardens that’s your passion area and your expertise! I like putting my 5 cents in but ultimately it’s your stomping ground and I try not to muscle in unless I’m really either not sure of the outcome or have a defined vision myself. Your reinterpretation of the garden has been remarkable and certainly revealed a new personality that is more aligned with our personalities. I’m still not entirely convinced of say the roof change, but because I know this is a forever home for us, I’m happy to wait, to grow into it and see how it develops.
When it comes to the house itself though, I’m a little bit of a control freak, I don’t like it being out of place and am always thinking of where we can chip away at the subtle makeover/ renovation (hence the hundreds of square meters of sandstone crazy paving still in crates I’ve ordered). It is though true that I have an unwavering belief in the property. For me, the bones were so well conceived that our job is just to believe in it and build upon it.
The landscape is utterly remarkable and people often say … you moved those rocks there right? Which in one way seems like a fair question, but in reality a longer look at the sheer size and weight of them makes it clearly apparent that only time and nature at its most powerful could have produced this. One of my only criticisms is that the architecture which I love, and the big rock formations which I love, don’t interact. There’s no view from the house overlooking the amazing rocks nor does it nestle in amongst them. This drives me to distraction at times that you have to go out of your way to interact with the boulders … what are your thoughts? I’d also like to see the farm animals closer to the home and environs… I know when the previous owners had it there were horses roaming around … I’m keen to have that happen… like fencing paddocks closer to the house.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well and truly a sucker for adorable farm animals and also love the role they play on the property. I just love so much a sense of clarity and tidiness and my biggest fear has always been that whilst it would be incredibly charming to have the animals so close to the house, the real charm is that there is a buffer between the house and the farm personalities.
It really is like stumbling upon a hidden resort. Like the granite boulders on the farm that look like giants have mysteriously placed them there in some undefinable prehistoric age, the house doesn’t read like a house typically found on a farm. It does though make sense being there. It’s like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house that appears from nowhere over a cascading waterfall, our house emerges from the earth and the stone in its own way of belonging to the landscape.
That might seem like a contradiction…that the house belongs so seamlessly on the land, and yet I prefer it separated from the farm personality. It is a difficult thing to adequately express but to say that much of what is on the property is unexplainable. Sure there is a geological explanation for the granite tors dotted across the land, but really…it is a sprinkling of magic. In that same vein, the domestic part of the property is its own little bit of magic and somehow I feel having the animals too close to the house could just snap you out of that sense of where am I?
If you had endless budget what would you do/or a magic wand.
I would put 3 rail white painted timber fences all around the property and around the paddocks. It’s probably one of my most favourite looks on rural properties as it accentuates the gentle undulation of the land that you otherwise might not notice.
I think though that would entail almost a hundred thousand meters of timber palings and thousands of fence posts… but you did say endless budget!
Thank you for obsessively and even recklessly jumping in to purchase this property … it’s been and will continue to challenge me, but in equal measures it is a very special property. We had a visit from our South African art dealer who has some remarkable property and he said he would buy this property if he came across it in his travels and it was for sale. I was delighted and somewhat relieved that we hadn’t just cast a spell on ourselves in order to make believe our very quick decision to buy it was warranted. … well, I know we did, but a number of people have also been enchanted by it … what do you think they see in it?
If I were to sum it up in a ‘word’, it’s that the landscape is ‘majestical’ it truly is.. you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a vortex of land that is too special to be real.
Anything else you want to say that I haven’t thought of?
I want to say thank you to you for delighting in my enthusiasm for the property, for backing me on my impulsive purchase, for dedicating yourself to its constant development and health. Thank you for bringing your special magic to this little piece of our magic. 🙂