[As appeared in Our Home Magazine, Shepparton News]
Story by Jessica Ball & photography by Julie Mercer
A neglected block of land has been given a second chance at life, resurrected from a deserted sand mine to a modern industrial off-the-grid home.
For almost 20 years the Kyvalley land sat idle but when Lisa and Steve Booth discovered it five years ago they knew it was something special.
“The sand hills in this region are quite rare and it’s sad to think that so much of the sand hill has been excavated away.” Lisa said.
“There is nothing we can do about that but we can now start the process of revegetating and planting a whole lot more trees.”
For the family of six it was important to have a sustainable home that was not too big – therefore economical to build and run – but designed in a way that it had spacious living.
“We wanted to be really smart about the spaces we built,” Lisa said.
“We didn’t want to have a big McMansion that we would have to heat and cool and clean and use the materials to build.”
One of the pieces that would eventually take pride of place in the home – an old wool-sorting table from a Byron Bay shearing shed that was reclaimed and repurposed into a dining room table – actually inspired the the design of the home.
The natural materials and “boxy” shape of the table are reflected in the design of the home, which has affectionately been dubbed the Shearing Shed House.
“Wool was sorted on (the table) for probably 70 or 80 years. It was built to function really well but it also just happens to be beautiful and that’s kind of how I view this whole house,” Lisa said.
The home itself is comprised of two connected and light-soaked pavilions.
Inside and out the abode offers stripped back charm with a minimalistic mix of clean lines, back metal, recycled timber and red brick.
Peppered with second-hand pieces and natural materials, the industrial aesthetic is met with warmth and character.
Lisa found some fruit bins for sale from a grower in Stanley and she decided to use the panels from these in the home’s interior. The name Stanley had extra meaning as it was also the name of her beloved grandfather – who passed away not long before the installation of the panels.
Brass fittings take centre stage in the home’s two powder rooms. Lisa was thrilled to pick up the bargain garden taps, building the room around them. “I love the natural look of brass and it ages differently and I love that idea that a material takes on its own life.” she said.
Almost every room has north-facing glass for passive energy gain, with the sun-splashed concrete slab and recycled internal brick wall storing and releasing heat to keep the home comfortable.
Large windows on the north and south sides bring the outside in and allow for cross-ventilation.
With 8kW of solar panels and 26kWh of salt water battery storage, the house is completely powered by the sun.
“We live totally off-grid and have not changed our lifestyle at all.” Lisa said.
“We’re not totally self-sufficient because we’re using some LPG gas and that was a compromise, but it feels damn good to know you are not connected to the grid.”
Multi-purpose areas make the best use of space in a compact home. With exposed brick, and a reclaimed wooden desk, Lisa said the space was one of her favourites. “Turning that space into a study nook just created another usable space rather than it just being a hallway,” shed said.
Keeping the home warm, even when the sun is behind the clouds, is the biofuel heater which gradually releases heat into the home. “It can burn corn or wheat and it takes about a bucket a day,” Lisa said. “It is a really slow burn – we go through about a tonne to a tonne-and-a-half of corn per winter and it just slowly burns away. It uses feed grain corn or wheat so it costs about $300 for the whole winter.” A gas log fire acts as a secondary heat source to raise the temperature quickly.
Recycled timber salvaged for the benchtops has created a butler’s pantry-meets-laundry that effortlessly fuses modern and industrial style. Rescued from the Kyabram P-12 College’s home economics room, the recycled timber has been given a new life. “It’s a combined space because there was no way I was going to be able to justify the space of two rooms,” Lisa said. “It’s brilliant because it’s tucked away out of sight.”
Follow the family’s sustainble journey on Instagram @bookenblend or Facebook.