AT ONE WITH NATURE
Homes & Gardens|February 2021
With its breathtaking panorama and a wealth of timber finishes, Fran Derham and Michael Robertson’s retreat is the epitome of rustic chic
FIONA MCCARTHY

Tucked between land, sky and ocean, Fran Derham and Michael Robertson’s retreat in rural Victoria has been built as a home for all seasons. The house and shed, linked by a timber bridge and built entirely from scratch by the couple to sleep 10, ‘is very encompassing in the winter and quintessentially Australian in the summer,’ says Fran. With sweeping views afforded by a 360-degree deck, ‘you’re really at one with the weather here.’ When it rains, ‘you inhale the sight and sound of it from the couch or bed; and when it’s sunny, you can soak it up outside, from east to west, with coffee, birdsong and kangaroos grazing nearby in the morning or a glass of wine, set against a sunset soundtrack of cicadas, in the evening,’ she enthuses.

The house’s location, in a small rural pocket called Wensleydale (hence its name The Wensley), also proved the perfect opportunity for the Melbourne-based couple to combine Michael’s love for the bush and Fran’s love for the beach. ‘Michael always relished the space and freedom of growing up in a former gold mining town and dreamt of giving his kids a similar experience,’ says Fran of the 80-acre property.

Michael’s vision was to combine the aesthetics of an American ski chalet-meets-classic Aussie country shed (also inspired in part by legendary Australian architect Glenn Murcutt’s Kempsey Farmhouse). His ambition, as a builder by trade, to use Australian hardwoods such as old Oregon pine, salvaged from demolition sites in Melbourne, silvertop Ash and rough sawn green ironbark has ensured the house blends seamlessly with its surrounding landscape of rolling green hills, dams and tall eucalyptus trees.

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