This relaxed modular home in Perth is inspired by European barns
Modest, honest and robust, this modular family retreat located in the picturesque Perth Hills pays homage to the simplicity of a barn and to its owners’ European heritage.
Who lives here: Izabela Katafoni, owner and managing director of building design company, Studio Origami; her husband Lukasz Katafoni, a site supervisor; sons Nikodem, 8, and Bruno, 5; and their rescue greyhound, Matty.
Style of home: A four-bedroom, three-bathroom European barn-inspired modular home in Perth's Darlington.
Timeline: With Izabela designing the home and Lukasz shouldering costly jobs, the home was built in four months.
Budget: An initial budget of $400k was increased to $500k in order to afford better-quality finishes.
Sitting on their first-floor balcony, gazing out across their undulating 2800-square-metre property and surrounding eucalyptus-studded valleys to the Perth CBD, Izabela and Lukasz Katafoni couldn't be further away from the busy streets of Szczecin, the Polish city in which they were both raised. The couple emigrated to Perth a decade ago and settled briefly in an inner-city suburb.
The birth of their sons, Nikodem and Bruno, soon followed, and with them came a hankering for a more natural, outdoorsy lifestyle – a home with a greater connection to nature. Darlington, located in the gently undulating Perth Hills, seemed the ideal location. "We were so drawn to the potential in this block," says Izabela. "We fell in love with the view over the valley to the city, and the fact that we are hidden in this bushland.
"For us, choosing to build here was about our family being able to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. The nature around us makes us feel safe, and it's more calming. When we return home after a tiring work day, we come back to this wonderful view and it's just extremely soothing."
Darlington seemed perfect for Nikodem and Bruno as well. Instead of burying their heads in iPads, the rambunctious young boys now spend hours clamouring through their cubbyhouse – built by their father – scaling their own personal climbing wall and exploring their magical wooded backyard. "There is quite a bit of forest in Poland and that was my playground as a child," says Lukasz. "We want for our kids to be able to go out and play, like we did growing up – to not always be watching TV."
The basis of Izabela's design concept stemmed from this desire for a simple, honest lifestyle, and the barn-style architecture that is common in her native Poland. She also drew inspiration from the relationship between the property's natural environment and man-made objects. In the kitchen, polished concrete floors, black laminate surfaces, granite benchtops and powder-coated stainless steel contrast with more natural features such as the staircase made from oriented strand board (OSB) – an engineered cork-like wood product – and the blonde timber laminate of the kitchen cabinetry.
"We both like minimal design that's a bit industrial but also raw and robust," says Izabela. "And in the Polish countryside, you see a lot of this barn shape with very high-pitched roofs. The height and volume this creates makes areas seem more light and spacious."
The entire two-level, four-bedroom home was completed using modular panels from Perth company, Sips Industries. Energy and cost efficient, the SIPS (structural insulated panels) are resistant to termites, fire, severe storms and cyclones. This makes them ideal for the bushfire-prone area and Western Australia's harsh weather. "I love this product," says Izabela. "People think modular construction must look like, you know, a shipping container or something – but, really, this is just a standard-looking building. In fact, using modular panels to build was such a positive experience for us. It helped us build much more quickly than a traditional build, and at a cheaper cost, too."
With the help of her interior designer friend, Vivien Hegedus from ViViDesign, Izabela selected a colour palette inspired by the Perth Hills. Tones of olive, sage, ochre, mustard, charcoal, saffron and chocolate bring the outside in through furnishings, wallpaper, lighting and botanical artworks.
Further honouring the bushland setting is its commitment to environmental sustainability. Beneath the slab, a foundation of Cupolex recycled polypropylene domes interconnect to provide a durable formwork and continuous airflow, which regulates the internal air temperature. The home is packed with water-saving and renewable-energy systems, earning it recognition as an HIA GreenSmart project home of the year for 2018 in WA.
Through clever, affordable design, Izabela and Lukasz have created a home that's energy efficient and homely. Yet it's hard not to look around and wonder if Darlington truly is their forever home, considering their families live half a world away.
"Absolutely!" says Lukasz. "We love it here. We could never have achieved in Poland what we have here – not the same space and quality for the same price. The standard of living is so much better, and look at this view. Who wouldn't want to live here?"
"We had a problem on this particular site with the soil," says Lukasz, "In the Perth Hills, the soil is typically made of clay, and you're not able to build on that – as it's too unstable – without removing the clay sand first, which is very costly." After much research, Izabela found an affordable solution in Cupolex, a building system made from recycled, non-toxic polypropylene domes, which interconnect across a site's footprint to create a self-supporting structure that acts as permanent formwork. When the slab is poured over the top, it means less concrete, steel and labour, saving time and money.