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The Barwon Heads House by Adam Kane Architects

With the Barwon Heads House, Adam Kane Architects have transformed a weatherboard cottage built in the 1800s into a contemporary home for a young couple. Moody and textural, the barn-inspired extension conceals a spacious interior laden with American oak, silver travertine and hand-scratched plaster, softened by more delicate furnishings. We spoke to Adam about playing with contrasts and his unwillingness to compromise when it comes to form and function.

Photography by Timothy Kaye

Tell us a bit about your career journey – who or what has inspired you along the way?

We are often inspired by the refined beauty and timeless qualities of European (particularly western European) architecture and design. A sense of calm and a subtle design execution speaks volumes, giving each element a considered purpose. Our designs are typically family homes, so needing to ensure a practicality whilst maintaining the design integrity is challenging yet incredibly rewarding.

Would you say there is a common thread between the projects you’ve designed?

Our projects always start with a strong personal concept, which is then developed to seamlessly combine architecture, interiors, furniture and landscaping. We believe that these areas can’t be looked at independently; rather, a holistic approach needs to be used. A lack of unnecessary ornamentation, and consideration of space and purpose, reinforces the concept and impact on the occupant, creating a ‘feature home’ rather than a home with ‘features’.

"A balance of function or aesthetic suggests there is compromise."

You’ve created some breathtaking residences. What are your tips for striking a balance between the functional and more aesthetic elements?

A balance of functional or aesthetic suggests there is compromise. We don’t settle for compromise and will always continue to develop a design to ensure functionality can be maintained (or enhanced) whilst still having a beautifully refined home. We craft the unexpected and intangible, to inspire and challenge our clients.

Tell us about your brief for the Barwon Heads House. What were the client’s “must-haves”?

A gabled form, two living rooms and a mezzanine master bedroom. Whilst the floor plan was anticipated to be rectilinear in form, we wanted to ensure it didn’t turn out as your typical open-plan living space.

The house is situated on the coast, off Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula. How did you ensure a seamless transition from the facade to its natural surroundings?

Knowing the harsh coastal weather would be an issue, we chose to use a timber with a pre-weathered finish. We knew it would get a battering, so didn’t want to overwhelm the clients with an unrealistic maintenance routine. The worn finish only enhanced the textural qualities of the material and increased the reference of coastal timbers and textures.

Are you often inspired by nature in your work?

All of our designs reference their surrounds to ensure a contextually suitable response. The Barwon Heads setting was quite inspiring with its strong coastal environment and relaxed atmosphere.

The interior is quite pared back, yet full of warmth and texture. What drew you to materials with a patina?

The softness in all of the textures reference the warm yet desaturated coastal environment, and the lack of any white or standard plasterboard contributes to the relaxed, barefoot atmosphere of the area.

We’re honoured that our Malawi rug has pride of place in the main living area. What considerations are front of mind when you are choosing a rug for a space?

The Malawi rug had a softness and relaxed artisanal look, whilst still having an architectural linearity in its weave. Its subtlety perfectly suited the textures and tones of the space.

We share your passion for designing timeless spaces that will endure. How do you think this slower approach to design can benefit the inhabitants?

We design homes for our clients to live in and appreciate for years to come. We believe that more ‘fashionable’ or ‘trendy’ design has its place; however, I wouldn’t want to invest so much into my own home for it to already be out of date when I move in.

Finally, what’s keeping you creatively stimulated right now?

Passion and inspiration comes freely – plenty of coffee helps me get it all out!

Follow Adam Kane Architects on Instagram.

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