The simple beauty of a weather-beaten farm shed set in rolling swathes of pasture land dotted with gum thickets and rocky outcrops captured Kristy and Neil’s hearts and minds in 2015. Energised by time spent at cattle stations while travelling the dusty road from Darwin to Broome, the Melbourne city-dwellers began to think about what life would look like once their son and daughter, now 16 and 19, flew the coop.
Who lives here? Kristy and Neil, who are aiming to make Green Hills Farm their full-time residence and occupation in about two years.
Country living is …? Kristy: “The community. It’s all about sharing food, knowledge and time with people.”
Your ethos? Kristy: “We are very committed to land regeneration and ensuring it is better than we found it for future generations.”
Decorating approach? Kristy: “I am still finding pieces for the house. I am comfortable with the fact that I know what I am looking for, and it’s going to take time.”
Kristy was working in marketing and PR, and her husband Neil in corporate strategy, but their vision for the future involved building an eco-friendly agri-business and a new home in the country. “We had zero farming background, and we didn’t know anyone in the industry,” Kristy laughs. “Our friends thought we were mad when we bought the land, especially because it was 150 acres [60 hectares] and not just a four-acre hobby farm.”
Their property, Green Hills Farm, is located in West Gippsland, a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. “It was the first property we really looked at, and we instantly fell in love. We got an immediate feeling of home and place,” Kristy shares. The small, asbestos-ridden farmhouse was still standing, but the couple were awestruck by the western views of the Strzelecki Ranges gained from a tumbledown shed. “Walking around the old stables, the view of the hills came into life. We immediately knew this is where the house needed to go,” says Kristy.
“We wanted to create a new version of it, a modern barn, not just something off the plan.” The resulting home is a comfortable, contemporary farmhouse designed by Angus McKay and Len Chapman of Slap Architects and built by JW & WM Woodbridge.
Celebrating the organic textures, simple forms and hardworking spirit of Australian rural outbuildings, the iron-roofed, timber-clad abode is in harmony with the pastoral landscape. The merging of the natural and built environment continues inside, where daylight and tactile finishes flow. “We worked extensively with Kristy to develop the interiors based on the inspiration of the existing dairy farm materials, such as the weathered timber used in the interior wall linings and the brick flooring,” says Angus.
The low-maintenance retreat is minimally decorated with functionality at the fore. “There is a sense of simplicity when living in the country; it’s not about going out and buying lots of little things to fill up a room,” says Kristy.
“We are living on a working farm. Surfaces and flooring need to handle things like muddy boots, hence the concrete floors and the recycled brick paving in the entrance and mudroom.” Glazing features heavily on the western facade, capturing every inch of outlook and the spectacular sunsets. “It’s endless hours of golden glow here,” Kristy smiles.
The house at Green Hills Farm is thoughtfully designed for years of happiness and restorative gazing out to the far reaches of the surrounds. And how has the couple fared as farmers? With the help of a handful of dedicated people, they now raise grass-fed cattle and produce organic garlic, and their kitchen garden and orchards supply local restaurants. They run boutique accommodation on the lot next door and host events to celebrate local producers.
Kristy estimates she and Neil are about two years away from making Green Hills Farm their full-time residence and occupation, and they couldn’t be more excited. “Every time we walk in, we think how lucky we are to have found this place and built this home,” she shares. “It’s so calming and joyous and allows space for creativity with gardening and cooking. My cup is really filled by being here.
When Jessica isn’t styling shoots for magazines or foraging in op shops, she is tucked up in her 1970s home surrounded by a national park, writing about interiors, gardens and people for popular print and digital titles. Her book “Individual: Inspiration for creating a home that is uniquely your own” was released internationally in 2019.
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