Wellbeing in nature

Internationally renowned architectural designer Christine McKanna-Farr on why emotions should be at the core of every building project.

From Singapore to Shanghai, Malaysia, Dubai and Bahrain, Christine McKanna-Farr was working on both large scale and boutique commercial developments, on five-star resorts and luxe residential projects. Returning to her native Australia was not something she expected to do.

Until she met Hunter based dairy farmer Andrew Farr that is. She fell in love, married, and settled into life on a 1200-acre Holstein cattle dairy farm near Singleton in the Upper Hunter.

A creative dynamo with a relentless eye for the sophistication of simplicity and a deep passion for sustainability, Christine has launched Design Milk Studio and made the respectful rejuvenation of Glenrock Station near Bulga one of her first local projects.

While the development approval (DA) process for an extension at the rear of the 1903 Australian hardwood cottage is still underway, work has already commenced on replacing the roof and renovating the interior. The new master bathroom is a serene oasis, perfect to soak up outdoor vistas in an ambiance of timeless beauty.

Marrying old and new

The back of the original structure had to be demolished and will be replaced by a light-filled private retreat, an unashamedly modern addition with clean lines, positioned around a courtyard with a Japanese maple tree at its centre.

The extension offers plenty of space for an open plan kitchen and living area with an abundance of natural light.

“It is so important to not just knock over an old building, but to revive it in keeping with the original structure, to develop a project within the context of its surroundings, its climate, culture and the traditional townscape, while factoring in modern simplicity,” she explains.
“There is a real romance about capturing a building’s originality. A well-designed home supports everyday family life and wellbeing.

“It drives behaviour, creates intimacy and an authentic sense of belonging. It’s not often talked about, but emotions really should be at the centre of any building project. “I always meet with new clients in their home, we have an informal chat over a glass of wine, and I observe them in their own space. I get quite absorbed in their personality, their needs and their vision.”

Christine admits to having a penchant for surprising clients with unexpected design twists – based on her observations of a family’s current or future needs. She is also a passionate advocate for working with highly skilled craftspeople and for sourcing sustainable building materials.

“I don’t see the point of going crazy with Italian marble throughout,” she says. “Using natural, recyclable, locally available materials will have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
“Building GreenSmart is about so much more than hanging plants. It’s a philosophy that should transcend a building project from start to finish. That’s how you promote health and wellbeing, social connectivity and a positive emotional journey, during the building phase and well beyond.

“Because the life cycle of a building is not a start and stop approach, it’s a continuum with the well-being of its occupants at its core.”

To find out more about Christine McKanna-Farr’s latest projects, follow her on Instagram and Facebook or visit her website at designmilkstudio.net.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography and renders courtesy of Christine McKanna-Farr