The radical refurbishment of an Australian farmhouse into a family retreat

The Seat is a spectacular house by Atlas Architects, born from the bones of a 1980s-era structure and re-shaped to take in the impressive landscape of Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula

The Seat by Atlas Architects
(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

Atlas Architects describes its new project, The Seat, as being ‘not just affected by the global pandemic but born of it’. Set in a remote coastal spot in Victoria, the new house had a rapid genesis. The site was snapped up by clients as a weekend retreat, but after being confined to their new property during the pandemic, they realised the coastal plot could do with a radical overhaul of its existing Australian farmhouse structure. 

Rooms open to the outdoors at The Seat by Atlas Architects, an overhaul of an Australian farmhouse

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

A deadline was imposed – a family wedding in March 2022 – and Atlas was engaged to create a new family home, after working with the Melbourne-based clients on a number of other projects. 

Black pitched-roof volumes that comprise this renovated Australian farmhouse

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

At its heart, The Seat is a major overhaul of the original structure, a brick-built, pitched-roof farmhouse dating back to the 1980s. Despite its bucolic location amongst the hills of the Mornington Peninsula, the house was orientated away from the views.

‘Our clients wanted to insert a new dimension that embraced, celebrated and centred the view so that no matter where you are in the house, you are connected to nature,’ say the architects, adding that the refurbishment also needed space for children and grandchildren. 

View from inside an Australian house, with stone floor and pitched roofs, looking out to nature

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

The farmhouse was a linear structure. To bolster the accommodation, Atlas added a new pitched-roof wing, orientated towards the view.

A wall of glass opens up to the landscape, while existing volumes are enhanced by the addition of a series of courtyards that wrap around the house, framed in black steel beams. 

Outdoor paved terrace with seating, in front of single-storey house

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

The internal layout was completely overhauled, with a new entrance that looks through the addition to the hills to the west.

The main spine of accommodation runs the full length of the house, including three bedrooms, a rumpus room, a laundry, a pantry, a workshop and an open-plan lounge. 

Home library, with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

The main living space is contained within the newly added volume, with large sliding glass doors and ceilings that rise up into the pitch of the roof.

This open-plan kitchen, dining and living area can be opened up to an external patio, with two book-lined walls creating a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. 

View from house's dining area looking out to nature

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

Outside, the courtyards are enclosed within pergolas formed from beams that continue the pattern of the roof pitches and slopes, transforming the structure into a coherent overall form.

A dark palette, inside and out, unites the spaces, as does the bluestone flooring that runs through the living space out onto the terrace.

Armchairs in home library

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

‘We worked extremely hard to create something that looks effortless,’ the architects say. ‘We hand-picked and tested every tiny element, from materials to colour palettes; every shade of grey, every surface and texture, every last detail was tried and tested.’

The result is a house that immerses its occupants in the landscape, with the greens and blues of the outside world enhanced by the sober interiors. As the house and landscape mature, plants will grow to envelop the framed structure, making it feel more at one with its surroundings. 

Australian farmhouse transformed into modern house seen from above among greenery

(Image credit: Tess Kelly)

The angled extension shields a south-west-facing courtyard, with a vegetable garden and access to the laundry. The kitchen, with its long, bar-style island unit, is at the centre of the plan, looking both outwards and inwards.

The house was finished on time and was able to form a spectacular backdrop for the wedding, meaning that everything went perfectly to plan.


Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.

With contributions from