Sweet bird song can be heard in the background as Shelley Kennedy phones in from Upland Farm in Denmark, in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. The 107-acre property is the location of a cattle farm and four architecturally designed holiday cabins that Shelley and her husband Tyrone, who works in engineering and construction, built after purchasing the land in 2018. Shelley, a women's health physiotherapist, has just clipped bunches of fresh flowers and foliage to add to each cabin before the next guests arrive. Special touches like this elevate the experience of Upland Farm. “I look at our cabins as not just a holiday stay,” Shelley shares. “I want people to come and rest their minds and soul. And if I can give them that space to have that clarity and relaxation, my job is done.”
The idea of ‘space’ initially inspired Shelley and Tyrone to give up city living in Perth and build a new life four hours southeast of the state’s capital, where vineyards, bush, crystalline beaches and pasture land meet. Before the move, they would visit friends in rural regions and admire their lifestyle. “We loved how they lived off the land and had all that space for their children to run pretty carefree,” says Shelley, mum to Mavi, five, and Clover, seven. The all-important secondary goal for the entrepreneurial couple? Establish a holiday retreat that harnesses the area's natural beauty while nurturing feelings of wellbeing and mindful living.
After settling on their chosen parcel, Shelley and Tyrone enlisted the expertise of Perth-based architect Nikki Ross, who grew up near Denmark and understood the region's wild and unpredictable weather. “We get really high winds and rainfall, and we wanted someone with knowledge of the local climate to capture the buildings as best as possible in a sustainable way while celebrating that agricultural landscape,” Shelley explains. By 2020, two cabins were built, and an additional two followed in 2022.
Shelley designed the interiors of the first two cabins, drawing inspiration from the colours and textures of the couple’s favourite secret local swimming spots. “The views out the many windows create an artwork, and I didn’t want the interiors to distract from that,” says Shelley. “Having the quieter, softer natural aesthetic inside helped ground the visual from outside.”
For the cabins completed last year, Shelley enlisted the help of Perth design studio Lahaus. “I got them involved to give the farm a distinct look and feel. We wanted to be a little bit more adventurous and bolder, but I wasn’t confident enough to do that on my own.” Granite, concrete, blackbutt timber and slate speak to a rural aesthetic but feel luxurious, especially when incorporated into bespoke elements such as day beds and highly crafted kitchen joinery. “The cabins are different, but they tie in beautifully,” says Shelley, adding that Lahaus’ work at Upland Farm has been shortlisted for multiple national design awards.
The energy-efficient dwellings boast passive heating and cooling capacities that ensure comfortable temperatures throughout the seasons. In the chilly winters, the cabins are toasty with wood-burning fireplaces fueled by timber gathered on the farm. Double-glazed windows are positioned to trap the sun, “and in the summertime, we rely on cross ventilation through the big double-glazed sliding doors,” says Shelley. “They capture the nice breezes and cool the cabins right down.”
In the spirit of treading lightly on our planet, Shelley has decorated the interiors thoughtfully and minimally. “We’ve tried to choose Australian-based designers that are mindful of sustainability and the environment. The Dharma Door definitely provokes all those values.” The Dharma Door woven baskets are on hand and ready to fill with blankets and tasty local cheese and wine for a picnic under the gums, or as a convenient carrier for collected firewood. “We’ve really tried to hone in on a pared-back, natural look, and we needed beautiful but functional pieces. The Dharma Door has beautiful products that are also completely practical for farm life,” Shelley explains. The neutral tones of the all-natural, handmade storage solutions settle effortlessly into the interiors, where the expansive vistas are, ultimately, the main attraction.
Thickets of giant karri trees (a variety of eucalypt endemic to Western Australia) roll into vineyards, which roll into green pastures speckled with cows. The Southern Ocean lay just over the ridge, fringed by ancient coastal rock formations and verdant national park. Launching Upland Farm a mere three weeks before the global pandemic took hold meant the couple’s first guests were hyper-local. Post-pandemic, weary travellers arriving from all over the world are immediately awed by the spectacular natural beauty, quickly followed by restorative feelings of rest and utter relaxation as they step into their home away from home. “Our little corner of Australia is pretty special,” Shelley muses.
1. Uttam Tote Earth 2. Jumbo Hemp String Bag 3. Small Sona Square Basket Duo 4. Amua Wall Hanging 5. Sona Square Basket 6. Large Seafarer Basket 7. Small Seafarer Basket 8. Large Sona Rectangle Basket 9. Boda Basket Earth 10. Jumbo Tassel Wall Hanging 11. Woven Pot Duo
www.uplandfarm.com.au | Written by Jessica Bellef | Images by Paris Hawken and Hannah Puechmarin
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