Hello budding home renovators, builders, architectural voyeurs and dreamers alike.

As the Heartwood Project progresses, I spend some more time with Pauline Hurren, acclaimed South Australian Architect and Design Principal on the Heartwood project to discover the inspirations, observations and the possibilities that helped shape this ambitious transformation. 

“Well,” starts Pauline, then pauses, “there are so many ... which makes it hard to know where to start!”

“The first aspect worth noting is the seclusion of the setting, quite unique in a suburban township.

Second, is the history of the built form, those twin parallel stone buildings that are the original family dwelling. Third is the potential of the gardens, for them to be restored too and to truly accent the towering oak tree.

Then there are the bonus aspects of a wonderfully environmental orientation, the splendid, private valley views, the charming swimming pool and the useful outbuildings. As I said, there is so much to love about this property." 

Heartwood is quite a package of pluses for a pioneer settlement cottage, conceived in 1867. It is humble in design, built in simpler times and modestly remodelled over the years. It has weathered many seasons, sheltered in the protective embrace of the enormous oak tree.

Encased within the twin stone gables, early discoveries revealed the original timber shingle roof, now restored and lining the inside of the kitchen.

In the main room, above the hand-hewn stone fireplace lies a huge lintel of Stringybark heartwood, rich with the patina of time. 

“That’s just two of the heritage features we are incorporating into the new design, along with the gardens”, continues Pauline.

With advice from leading South Australian experts in historic and heritage landscaping, the tiered gardens are again responding to care and nurture.

A collection of cool climate Camellias nestle in the shade under the oak tree and scattered across the site are the eucalyptus gums (favoured by many Koalas).

In an open, sunny position is a naturalistic swimming pool facing a green and open valley vista - in serious need of some attention, but amazingly, structurally sound.

The construction challenges all meant serious decisions on how to approach the building stages, so as to best address a steep site, the difficult access for large construction equipment, the number of existing dwellings and outbuildings, the many levels of stone terracing and an elevated pool. 

“It called for some imaginative thinking!” laughs Pauline.

“We wanted to complete the works with a minimum of disruption to the site, including the garden rejuvenation works.”

Negotiation with the neighbour across the valley ensured dry weather access for all the large framing materials on truck and crane through their property to the lower level of the Heartwood site.

The new local stone and all the smaller elements came onto the site at the highest point at the street access and were carried into place. This approach was also used when pumping the foundation concrete where gravity worked with us for a consistent flow and minimal disruption.

So, here’s why I see this setting as so inspirational.

Built on a rare and beautiful site on one of the earliest subdivisions of land in the then emerging Adelaide Hills village of Stirling, formally declared 20 years later in 1888. 

Today, it remains a secluded gem in the hills, surrounded by enormous trees and chirping birds, sheltering beneath an impressive oak, planted as little more than a sprouting acorn by the first resident family.  

Clearly, the original dwelling was constructed as a labour of love and pride. It must have been important in the regions’ early settlement development when first built.

Now, inspired by built form heritage and extraordinary setting, it evolves, embracing its  irreplaceable past, to be reborn as a marvellous home for today, ingeniously re-worked into amazing living for a new family. 

But I'm simply an Architectural Voyeur ... what does our Heartwood expert think?

Enter Dale Gray, Ouwens Casserly Real Estate agent who is closely following the progress of the Hurren Heartwood Team.

“What will be built here is to be a blue-ribbon secluded hideaway built around twin historic stone cottages, transformed through design and craftsmanship into a modern home which offers resort style living in a semi-rural setting. Truly a unique hills property of the future."



Heartwood | Built 1867  | Reborn 2016  | A celebration of 150 years.

Follow this journey from creative design to active construction as I talk with Pauline Hurren, Principal Architect on Heartwood in each of the next phases of this small piece of early settlement history in one of Adelaide's most sought-after residential areas and prettiest towns in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.