“The way life is meant to be” is the phrase used to describe the township of Eynesbury in Victoria. Bounded by low hills, the Werribee River and a forest of grey box trees, it’s a slice of tranquil country life. In the heart of town is a National Trust listed bluestone homestead that dates back to the 1870s – a mix of Colonial Georgian and Victorian architecture.

Yet this isn’t your typical old country town; it’s not even in the country. And the original homestead is now home to the golf club of the 18-hole golf course that is the focal point of this new housing and township development by GEO Property Group. It’s just 45 minutes’ drive west of the Melbourne CBD by freeway, yet it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life in terms of the lifestyle, character and sense of community it’s aiming to achieve.

With infrastructure, a water-recycling system, and about 100 homes built so far, the township will boast up to 5,000 homes in the future, along with its own community centre with commercial, shopping and medical facilities, all linked by green spaces and walkways. It’s squarely aimed at families and retirees alike who are keen for a tree change.

Modern heritage
 Local builder Greybox Homes designed The Yarra as a country-looking home that fits in perfectly within the old-style estate. However, it still meets the needs of a modern family.

“The developer’s design guidelines are quite specific and promote a mix of low-rise and highrise construction facing the award-winning golf course; low fences; verandas and porches – the type of things that encourage a social way of living that is reminiscent of country Victoria that you don’t really get in large residential areas these days,” Greybox Homes’ Jessica Gatt says.

“These guidelines support that heritage look of weatherboard homes with high-pitched tin roofs, prominent eaves and lovely old-style verandas that wrap around the house. This is what we have tried to re-create when building The Yarra.”

While it’s the look they were after, the home’s location only 60 metres away from the forest meant that because of the bushfire risk, timber weatherboards were never going to be part of the plan. Capturing the country look using lightweight cladding proved to be the winning combination for a client moving into Eynesbury.

“The client was originally thinking of a brick home, but they quickly switched to the weatherboard look of The Yarra, which is so much more in keeping with the design of the home they wanted and the estate,” says Gatt. “But they were worried about the ongoing maintenance of weatherboards and, of course, the bushfire risk.

“That’s why we chose the Scyon™ Linea™ weatherboard which was used for the external wall cladding of the whole house. It’s far more durable against the elements and termites, compared to timber weatherboards, and it’s non-combustible,” she says.

“The Linea weatherboards give you the look of weatherboards, but without the cracking, shrinking and ongoing maintenance costs associated with timber,” says Gatt. “It also holds paint a lot longer than wood does. Obviously the client was happy with achieving the look they wanted without the maintenance issues they associated with weatherboard.

“Being lightweight it also made construction on-site quicker and cheaper than brick – it went up in half the time brick would have taken, so it also halved the cost of things like scaffolding. Bricklayers are hard to come by these days, so luckily we didn’t have to worry about that, and we also saved on structural lintels too,” she says.

Spin-offs
While never intended as a display home, since The Yarra was built in Eynesbury it has attracted a lot of attention from other potential clients, says designer Steven Johnson.

“A lot of people came in with the idea of a brick home, but they really warmed to the look of The Yarra,” he says. “I was quite surprised, I have to say, as I didn’t think the weatherboard construction would be such a hit.” There are six options to choose from to custom build The Yarra, tailored to the block and the client’s needs and budget. It can be one-storey or a larger two storey, with or without an attached garage, and with different outdoor spaces.

“In this case, because the corner block faced the forest with the street on the side, we changed the whole orientation of the kitchen, living and entertaining areas, so they would have views of the forest,” says Johnson. “The veranda then wraps around the front and side of the block. It makes the most of the northerly aspect and still allowed for three bedrooms and space in the backyard, with the garage behind the house.

“In terms of affordability, The Yarra design is very effective at making the most of the available space. There is very minimal hallway space and it has a good open plan design. While the client decided not to use the attic space, in the two-storey option this space can be converted into a really nice master bedroom and ensuite, with great views of the golf course.

“Those interested in the Yarra design are not typically first home buyers, they are people looking for the house they will live in for a long time. It’s proving popular with people who work in the city but who like the idea of retreating to their country house each day – but without having to drive so far,” he says.

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