Our Moonambel clients bravely follow their winery dream in the Pyrenees

Patricia Mullins and John Kirkpatrick can remember the exact moment when they fell in love with French wine. It was in the mid ’70s, and the couple were sitting on the banks of the River Seine, glasses in hand, musing on the links between art and wine and the possibility of where this could lead.

Fast-forward 40 years, and Patricia and John are about to turn their pipe dream into a reality. In 2005, the self-confessed Francophiles bravely purchased a property in one of Victoria’s oldest wine regions, The Pyrenees - a mountain range that ironically shares its name with the ruggedly beautiful area that divides France and Spain. Patricia and John had spent many holidays and weekends in the region and had come to admire the sweeping vistas and temperate climate.

“We’ve been going to the Pyrenees for more then 20 years to look at the scenery and enjoy the wineries,” says Patricia, an award-winning children’s author illustrator. “A couple of years ago, we decided it was time for a change. We’d been living in the inner-city suburbs since the ’70s. We weren't looking for a vineyard, but we found this property which had the most amazing views.”

The site, which is located on Black Mares Lane, just a minute’s drive from Moonambel, has views overlooking vineyards, dams, paddocks and distant mountain ranges. After settling on the idea of a tree-change, the pair worked closely with a local winemaker and produced their first vintage, Black Mare Shiraz. The name references not only the street, but also Patricia’s lifelong association with horses. In 1998, Patricia and John had set up Equus Art, a company that specialises in the restoration of vintage carousel and rocking horses. Since launching their business, the pair have been involved in two large-scale heritage restoration projects, Luna Park and the Melbourne Zoo.

With the success of their first vintage, Patricia and John began thinking about how to design a potential cellar door that would celebrate the wine region, the local produce and the scenic beauty.

The couple randomly came across Intermode’s award-winning Kilmore House on the internet. Impressed with the house’s extensive glazing, green credentials and inherent connection to the landscape, they contacted Intermode.

“We initially had no idea what Intermode was. We were definitely coming into it cold,” says Patricia. “But what we found with Intermode was that they were inviting, friendly and they listened. The designs were simple and we just loved the high quality of the houses.”

For research, the pair visited Kyneton House, a project which was featured on Grand Designs Australia. The excursion strengthened their admiration for the bespoke housing model.

“Over the years we had looked at several options, but what we found with Intermode was, we not only liked the simplicity of the designs, but also their approach. They incorporated our ideas, but they also brought in their own ideas.”

Briefs can often appear under the strangest circumstances. For director Nick Carr, it was an Intermode house photo that John had photoshopped into an image of the couples site. It was the perfect client brief.

Dissecting the clients requirements and lifestyle patterns, Intermode’s design comprises of three very distinctive parts: a cellar door, the main living and sleeping areas, and an open-plan gallery and workshop.

The L-shaped floorplan faces north-east and north-west and is designed to capture the movement of the sun throughout the day – it rises in the gallery and master bedroom and  sets in the open-plan kitchen and living area. In the winter, the glazed facade captures the sun all day – from sunrise to sunset. The over-sized eaves and the orientation however, ensures the opposite effect occurs in the summer, when the sun rises and sets further south. 

The walls are extensively glazed, with predominantly solid sections used at the rear of the house ensuring privacy and shelter. The glazing blurs the boundary between inside and out – putting every corner of the house on show.

Every material choice reflects Intermode's solid commitment to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint. Polished concrete floors eliminate the energy and material consumed by applying a floor covering. Concrete also has the ability to absorb the heat from the winter sun, reducing the need for artificial heating. In the summer however, the concrete floors work with the diurnal temperature range, reducing air-conditioning costs. The building will be entirely powered by solar energy.

The house’s timber cladding is tactile and will weather naturally over time. For the cladding, the clients opted for a warm grey colour. This will ensure the house blends in with the surrounding trees and land. Blinds within the inside spaces can close off the building completely, providing solar shading.

The house features argon filled Low-E double glazing with two layers of 6mm laminated glass. The glazed operable doors not only promote cross ventilation and circulation but also captures the panoramic landscapes. The adjoining timber decking, made from sugar gum, is renewable and has low-embodied energy. It allows the living spaces to naturally spill outside.

The cellar door will be detached from the main body of the house and will have engineered oak floorboards, ensuring a seamless transition between the decking.

Combining their love of horses with their love of French wine, the vineyard and cellar door will appropriately be titled Equus @ Moonambel.  

Although all of Intermode’s houses follow a specific criteria, if you look carefully at each design you can often uncover hidden details of the personalities that brought the project into being. Perhaps this has never been more obvious as with Equus @ Moonambel. It is a dynamic, highly sculptural form that essentially floats above the landscape. It ticks all the boxes of Patricia and John's brief.