House of stone and wood

By Narelle Coulter

Nangara is a stunning family home tucked away in the quiet road in Narre Warren East.

After I drive away from Nangara in Narre Warren East I can’t help but think of the 90s folk band Things of Stone and Wood.

Nangara is a house of stone and wood.

Owners Colin and Andrea have spent 10 years renovating, extending and landscaping their family home to impressive effect.

In 2010 the house was run down and would have defeated owners with less imagination and determination.

“When we bought the house it had lots of little windows and little rooms and was very dreary and dark,“ explained Andrea.

The couple believe the double skin stone construction was largely the work of a determined German immigrant by the name of Lotte.

The oldest part of the house was started in the 1940s, but most of the structure was completed in the 1960s with stone sourced from Lysterfield.

Lotte later married ABC presenter John Royle who sold the property to Andrea and Colin.

Despite years of tackling tough renovations, Colin admits Nangara was by far the hardest.

The couple brought considerable expertise the project – Colin is a bricklayer and project manager and Andrea an interior designer.

The couple and their two girls lived in another stone house on the 25 acre property, which was once Muddy Creek Restaurant, while the four year transformation of the main residence took place.

For two years the couple spent every spare moment planning and cleaning the site, while the construction took a further two years.

“We had to live on site because there were so many decisions that had to be made on the go. The builders were excellent but it did mean we had to be here all the time,“ said Andrea.

The couple gutted the main house and extended the laundry, garage, living room and upstairs bedrooms. They moved the front door, realigned parts of the roof, installed a new stairway to the second storey and installed large feature windows throughout the home, which let in light and capture the surrounding rural views.

“ Before we started we both agreed that what we were about to do was nuts. But we just decided to be nuts and do it anyway,“ said Andrea, laughing.

When asked to describe Nangara, Andrea doesn’t hesitate.

“Raw,“ she says.

And raw it certainly is with an aesthetic conjured by the interplay of steel, timber, polished concrete and stone.

“It is a very strong, masculine building. We really wanted the interior finishes to combine with the landscape outside. Plaster and paint would have looked ridiculous,“ said Andrea.

“And we wanted large windows to let in light and so you can see the surroundings,“ added Colin.

Nangara certainly does offer bucolic rural views, of native bush, majestic oak trees, an historic crab apple, dams and open lawn.

Andrea said the natural flow of Nangara from inside to out had brought the family in touch with the natural environment.

“We love watching the birds and animals. One day we might see an echidna, or deer, or ducks. The seasonal changes are wonderful to watch.“

“That the inside and outside is a blur is kind of nice,“ added Colin.

The couple have added their own design touches, while keeping true to the original structure.

Thick, sturdy sleepers salvaged from a railway in Melbourne’s Docklands frame a window opposite the kitchen, while much of the steel used in the build was salvaged from disused factories.

“We are big believers in rescuing and reusing,“ said Andrea.

Hanging above the front entrance is a old farm harrow reimagined into a medieval looking light feature, while ragged beams from the original balcony inset with down lights jut out into the passageway.

The couple enjoy entertaining and the house has several entertainment zones including the dining room, or “feasting room“ as the family calls it, a sweeping circular outdoor alfresco area with an Indian kadhai on which they like to cook paella, as well as a huge party room, dominated by imposing timber upright and cross beams.

The home is heated by a hydronic boiler which warms the slab. There is no air conditioning. Rather the family relies on passive cooling by opening windows and allowing breezes to flow through .

The couple is selling their home and are looking forward to their next design challenge, which they agree will be completely different to Nangara.

“Every build is completely different and this one was certainly planned to suit this site. With this home we really wanted to do justice to what was here,“ said Andrea.

If she could see Nangara now, Lotte Royle would surly agree that her original vision has been honoured and enhanced in the creation of a stunning family home.