Artist and designer John Lacey's natural talent and...
Murray on the Rise
There's a ripple of excitement at the new Mildura marina as homeowners like Leonie and Graeme bring 21st-century architecture and styling to Australia's grandest waterway.
Paddle steamers, orange groves, art deco facades ... these are some of the images commonly associated with Mildura in the north-western corner of Victoria on the banks of the Murray River. Now that list of attractions includes cutting-edge design at the new Dockside Marina. Described by its creators as a “$120 million-plus development that combines the lifestyle features of a master-planned resort with the functionality and practicality required of a premier grade marina”, it's home to many long-time Mildura residents, including Leonie and Graeme Burrows.
CAN'T RUSH THE RIVER
This marvel of modern styling in regional Australia has been a long time coming. It was back in 1987 that feasibility studies first began, and not long afterwards when Leonie started imagining her current home. “I was the CEO of the council so I'd worked on this,” she relates. “There were a lot of environmental issues between NSW and Victoria because of the river and it took probably 15 years to get approvals for the marina to go ahead, but I always had in mind the block of land I wanted.” Over the years the work continued until finally, in 2008, the Burrows were able to buy their dream lot and begin work on house plans. And after living in a heritage home dating back to 1891, they were eager to move to something “more minimalist and modern”. “We wanted open plan,” Leonie states. “In the heritage house we had a kitchen completely separate to the dining room and very big separate formal lounge room. The idea was to capture the views of the river everywhere.” Queensland architect Michael Rayner and local firm Jacan helped them achieve this with an expansive floor plan, towering windows, and mezzanines and voids between levels to afford water views throughout. The home is also geared heavily towards outdoor living thanks to the full kitchen outside with a double stove instead of a barbecue, a fridge and a freezer. “We hardly ever watch television in the summer – we sit out there. I mean we probably drink more than we should! But it's just so restful to sit out virtually on the river and be able to watch everything going past,” Leonie explains. While the riverside setting represents the home's best feature, it also posed the greatest challenge during the build. A long, thin block meant limited floor space, so the Burrows planned a large area underground with double garage, workshop, wine cellar and storage space. This had to be tanked to stop water seeping in from the river. Now that it's done, it helps keep the house cool. Which is useful, since the other big challenge was Mildura's climate. “It's very hot,” Leonie explains. “It gets very cold, too, but we can have weeks over 40°C.” The perfect place, in other words, to put the much-vaunted smarts of modern architecture to the test.
HOT BUT NOT BOTHERED
To ward off the heat on the western side of the building, they installed triple insulation and kept windows to a minimum. Rooms that need illumination get it through double-glazed skylights. Comfort glass and reflective blinds also help keep temperatures down. “And if we want to we can stack back those great big commercial sliding doors and just open it all up,” Leonie adds. According to her, it's as effective in the winter as the summer. “We were remarking it's been a freezing cold winter down here, but we haven't even had the gas fireplace on. We might put the reverse-cycle on just for a while when we get home from work but then turn it off. It doesn't get cold, really, considering the amount of glass.” The home is as modern inside as it is out. Leonie describes it as “sleek and monochromatic”, and points out their choice of porcelain tiles instead of carpet, shadow lines instead of cornices, and LED strip lighting instead of more obtrusive fittings. The only places where pendant lights have been used are below the voids in the ceiling where Leonie felt they needed to fill the space. Similarly, the Western Australian Maui timber dining table was chosen for its height and strong vertical lines which can assert themselves under the 5.5m ceiling. The uncluttered interior and neutral palette also provide the perfect backdrop for the Burrows' art collection. This includes works by Archibald Prize-winner Cherry Hood and Queensland artist Donald James Waters. As for the furniture, there weren't many items from their previous place that could easily make the jump. “It was a house full of antiques so absolutely nothing that would go in a new house, but most of the furniture in the new house is built in,” Leonie says. “It was a change, but I think we were ready for it.” It's not just a change for the Burrows, but for Mildura. However, Leonie laughs off the suggestion that they're a new breed of Murray pioneers. “The marina covenant is it has to be contemporary houses. Ours was the first but there are now more starting to go up of a similar design. It's still a bit much for some people in Mildura, but that's fine. It works, it's great, and we couldn't be more happy with it.”
Story Mark Vender Photography Ross Williams