Set among tall gum trees and thousands of walnut trees, Cortes Kiln is a farmstay built for its surrounds. The former tobacco kiln was converted into a weatherboard cottage in the 1950s and recently renovated by its current owner, Ronaldo Cortes.
Cortes was born and raised on Gapsted walnut farm Valley Nut Groves where the kiln is located, just over three hours’ drive north-east of Melbourne. Now he oversees the farm (established in 1923), tending to its 170 acres of river flats and 175 acres of walnut orchards. And Cortes Kiln is his second project – after Cortes Cottage on the same property – for which he called on architect Kate Fitzgerald of Perth’s Whispering Smith Architects.
From the entrance, a long hallway of black-stained Tasmanian oak floorboards separates the old from new. At the north end of the cottage is a spacious bedroom, which stays impressively cool on a hot day. And at the south end is a fern-filled internal atrium. Sunlight filters in through a translucent polycarbonate frame, and an entire wall slides back to reveal verdant property outside.
The pair also designed many of the finishings, from door handles, to concrete basins and the inbuilt couch. There are walnut-wood chopping boards integrated into the kitchen bench.
The cottage’s living spaces are open plan with polished concrete floors and white-painted exposed timber walls. There’s a fireplace in the living room, a striking concrete bathtub with a beautiful view, and a fully-equipped kitchen.
Cortes Kiln is a short stroll from the Ovens River (with resident cows along the way) where you can swim or fish. Walnut season starts in late-March and finishes around May, so if you time your visit right, you can eat them fresh off the tree.