Located in the picturesque Wensleydale, behind Anglesea on Victoria’s Surf Coast, The Wensley is charming and sophisticated family home that marries elegance with rustic rural living.
Developed by Fran Derham and Mike Robertson on a picturesque 80-acre hinterland expanse, this unique “shed” (a real stretch for the term) embodies their dream of a spacious, open environment that welcomes in the stunning surroundings. Their vision was brought to life with the help of Byrne Architects, and drew heavy inspiration from Australian shed-like homes and traditional American ski chalets. And achieve this vision they have, and then some.
The Wensley features two connected structures — the main house and an adjacent shed, both designed to draw focus to the breathtaking valley views. Sun and moonrises are perfectly captured from the living room and kitchen, giving the sense of a deep connection with the outside.
Timber really takes centre stage in the design, and is found everywhere the eye can see — in the walls, floors, and ceilings, eliminating the need for plaster anywhere in the house. Reclaimed Oregon wood adorns the walls, ceiling lining, and doors while mixed Australian hardwood, brushed and stained by Grimes & Sons, forms the flooring. The external structure boasts rough sewn ironbark posts and decking.
The robust timber architecture is balanced by other textural materials like concrete and steel and of course, our linens on all beds throughout. These natural textural touches, in combination with the richness of wood, ensure the home radiates warmth and relaxed style.
The Wensley isn’t just a beautiful structure for Fran and Mike to enjoy; this dream home is available for rent on both Airbnb, offering a luxurious getaway for those seeking a unique and tranquil escape from nearby(ish) Melbourne, and beyond.
We were very lucky to stay there ourselves and managed to sit down with Fran (complete with stunning view behind her) to chat all about how this incredible home came to be. Read on for the full story below.
C+G: What a great success story The Wensley has been. How did it come about?
FD: The Wensley is the creative child of my husband and I. He is the rustic timber and I am the relaxed yet sophisticated interiors.
Michael has always relished the space and freedom he had growing up in Ballarat, and has always dreamed of giving his kids a similar (or even better) experience. We found the property in 2012. 80 Acres of rolling hills at the top of the Anglesea River in a little Pocket called Wensleydale. 20 minutes from Birregurra and 30 minutes from Aireys Inlet in the Surf Coast Hinterland.
Once he found the property things seemed to click into place and he proposed to me on a cow track on a hillside in the pouring rain in August 2013. The cow track wasn’t part of his initial plan. He was aiming for one of our dams, the one with the pretty trees, but the sky opened up and we didn’t quite make it.
Before we built the house we had a caravan that we renovated. Which was a serious labour of love. We always wanted a house there, it was just a matter of time.
We started building the house in July 2015 and continued over two years. It was a long build mainly due to Michael being busy with other projects and our particular vision for the project. We spent a long time selecting the right finishes to compliment the timber. The attention to detail paid to the carpentry in the interiors is partly Michael and partly our incredible chippy Martin Healy and his team.
My vision for the interiors was about complimenting the timber, letting it be the hero, but also adding some lighter colours to help brighten the darker spaces. Now that we’ve got the furnishings to a certain point I’m excited to collect art that works in there… not that there's a lot of wall space because all of our windows slide out onto the walls creating natural cross ventilation.
It’s almost as though the outside is the art. The view is the painting on the wall and you can sit and look at it all day in front of a roaring fire.
C+G: All the materials used in the location is of the highest quality - what was the inspiration?
FD: Initially Michael’s vision was to create an Australian shed like house. He was inspired by the Glen Murcutt Kempsey Farm House and the Plain Hill House
As a teenager he spent a year in Boseman, Montana so he has also been inspired by the American ski chalets and barns he came across over there.
What we’ve created is a house that lives and breathes, using natural materials. A palette of timber, raw brass, concrete and leather that ages with the house… all the marks on the concrete kitchen bench and the wear and tear on the floor just adds to its rustic charm. It’s amazing how the house actually makes you feel — grounded with a sense of soft and calm. Walking in there is almost like diving into the ocean… everything melts away. Living in a house entirely built out of timber is truly a unique experience... pardon the pun but you sleep like a log in there.
C+G: You have lots of people staying but you also have commercials and shoots happening all the time. How did this come about?
FD: I’m a producer by day and an Airbnb hostess by night so it was a natural progression for it to become a shoot location. As soon as the Country Style article launched and I started the Instagram, people were able to envision their brand there.
C+G: We are so happy all your guests can sleep in C+G now at the location. What do you love most about linen and about our product?
FD: Linen is the icing on the cake for me and those that know me have heard me bang on about linen and how it adds to the quality of your sleep. I like high quality french linen for its look, feel and most importantly its hardiness … it washes and wears well.
C+G: What’s next for you?
FD: We’re looking at starting another accommodation offering but things are moving slowly! So watch this space.