Design excellence and innovation in a family home.

This stunning home in Mt Martha is one of KWD’s latest design projects, and it was one of our most favourite properties to date as it belongs to Claire Williams, KWD’s Business Development Manager for the Mornington Peninsula.  Claire’s owner/builder project was a process of diving in deep and letting go, and of exploring new paths in terms of design innovation.


Claire and husband Lee are well versed in being owner/builders, having already built their own home in Mt Martha some ten years ago.  Realising that the house they lovingly built had reached its potential, they decided to look for a new project so they could design their forever home.  Claire grew up on a farm and was keen to have a rural property with acreage whilst Lee wanted to stay in Mt Martha, so the search for  the right property took some time.  Five years on they finally found a half acre plot in the heart of Mt Martha that offered the rural aspect they were looking for within walking distance of the local school which was perfect for their two young children.


It certainly wasn’t a property for everyone.  Essentially a bush block filled with bracken and green waste, the large corner block was unsuitable for developers as the land was too small to subdivide and the house itself was unliveable.  All these factors worked in the family’s favour, as not many were keen to take on such a major project of clearing and rebuilding.

Claire and Lee knew they wanted to create a beautiful family home with a rural aspect, however they didn’t have a clear vision of the design they wanted to build. “Going from no vision, to what we created, was a really in depth process,” explains Claire.  “Fortunately we were advised to engage an architect to design our home as the lay of the land was difficult. The existing structure was in a dip with a steep incline to the road, which proved somewhat of a challenge.”

“From our very first conversation with Peter Mills of Mills Gorman, he put us at ease.  We didn’t talk about the property as such, he wanted to know about our family and our lifestyle and the home we wanted to create.  A week or so after that he met us at the property and we talked about budgets, what we were hoping to achieve and what style of home we liked.  Our key brief was that we wanted a home that was family friendly, and we wanted to bring the outside in. Mills Gorman created a vision for the property that was so different from anything we could have imagined and was so far beyond what our initial ideas were. We showed Kate (Walker) and she was 100% supportive of the design, which elevated the build out of the ground and made the house feel larger and lighter.  She saw the vision where I couldn’t and she really helped through the process.”


As Kate explains, “The initial plan for the house was beyond what Claire had imagined, but it was right for the land.  Sometimes you need to go with a non-emotional decision and choose a design that is right for the block, for the area and for resale.  Claire had her heart set on a more traditional design with timber flooring, but the design that was presented to her literally turned this upside down with a timber ceiling instead.  We really had to encourage her to take a leap of faith and trust in the experts.  That’s why it’s so important to engage an architect and a designer where possible – even though Claire had the skills to do it all, she was too emotionally attached and needed to be gently nudged into making the best design decisions for the property.”


Claire and her family moved into the Dominion Road property in Sept 2015 and first turned dirt in July 2016.  The build was scheduled to take place in two phases, the first being the entrance, open plan dining room, kitchen and living room.  The project took around 12 months which was longer than they had hoped, but it was an intricate build made more complex by taking on the project as owner/builders – completing much of the work themselves.  Lee supported the builder with his own expertise, experience and skills and Claire took on the role of Project Manager.


“Peter Mills and Andy McLean of Mills Gorman were fabulous,” says Claire. “Peter created what proved to be an inspired design that was ahead of its time, the core of which was the incredible plywood ceiling which was really unheard of then but is now becoming increasingly popular.  Andy held our hands through the process ensuring we maintained the integrity of the design.  Leanne was also amazing (of Leanne Uytendaal Interior Design who works in association with Mills Gorman) offering such sound advice in terms of colour, style and the overall interior aesthetic.  And of course we engaged Kate of KWD to specify, source and supply all of the hard finishes.”



“Kate really helped me to feel comfortable with the design and pulled the space together to create a seamless style.  I had my heart set on a timber floor, but she showed me how incredible the timber ceiling would be and what a ground-breaking design we could create.  Having the right people on board really does make a difference to the design outcome,” says Claire.


KWD’s specifications pay homage to the plywood ceiling which was the foundation of the whole space, incorporating the ply within the edging detail of the joinery and making the lofty ceiling an integral part of the complete aesthetic.  The flooring became a feature in itself with large format rectangle Italian porcelain tiles and Terrazzo was used for the hearth which is the heart of the living area.


“It was a really good process for Claire to go through,” says Kate.  “Letting go and engaging external professionals to handle the design.  We stayed focused on the brief which was to make a family friendly, warm, inviting, bullet proof design, all the while being very design savvy and supporting the architect’s vision and making sure that vision shone through.”


This incredible project is now complete.  The architectural design, the spatial planning and the hard finishes have created a warm and inviting ambience that works perfectly for the family of four.  The use of natural stone and timbers form the perfect setting, and the high ceiling and large windows ensure the light filled space makes a feature of the garden and brings the outside in. The area feels even bigger than expected, and each member of the family can enjoy the beautifully designed separate zones of dining, kitchen and living whilst being a part of a communal space. Airy, spacious and filled with natural light, Claire’s property is a blend of design excellence, hard work and determination, and a family focused on creating a beautiful, welcoming home.


The second half of the project, which leads off the stunning new entrance, will be the living areas of the house (three bedrooms, a small study come TV room, the bathrooms and a laundry). When the time is right this side of the build will come together smoothly as they now have a benchmark for the whole design. Being an owner builder and  living on site is exhausting, so now it’s time for Claire and her family to enjoy what they have created before embarking on the next part of their story.


Floors: Italian Gris Porcelain Floor Tiles – 600x1200x10mm

Entry and hearth: Terrazzo Floor Tiles – 400x400x15mm

Kitchen: White 2-Pac cupboards, black Navurban Ravenswood cabinetry, Caeserstone snow back bench top, Portsea Grey Island Bench and splash back, Siemens appliances and Black Mosaic Pool Tiles for the reflection pool


Architect: Mills Gorman

Hard finishes: KWD

Kitchen: Built by Jensen and Row

Tapware: Perrin and Rowe Oberon from The English Tapware Company

Photographs by Brent Lukey.

Leave a Reply