GALLERY: Feels like home ... quirky and homely in a rural setting

WHEN Meg Simpson and Justin Byrne first saw the block of land they'd eventually call home, they knew they had to build a house that made the most of its surroundings while still suiting their quirky aesthetics.

Despite looking at a number of project homes, Mr Byrne and Ms Simpson couldn't find one that worked, so they eventually teamed up with architects Andrea Wilson and Rod Simpson to devise a unique design for their family's abode.

Mr Byrne also assumed the role of owner/builder allowing him to play a hands on role in the house's construction.

"Our brief for the architects was that we wanted to build an interesting house without it costing a fortune," he said.

While Mr Byrne co-ordinated a collection of tradespeople, a group of architecture students also pitched in with the build, keen to get first- hand experience.

The end result of everyone's hard work is a house that sits as close to nature as possible, even it's concrete slab flooring was designed to look like earth.

"We decided to do something sustainable using found and second hand material," Mr Byrne said.

The house's interior walls and ceilings were constructed from compressed rice straw which is commonly used in pre-fab housing in Asia while the house's exterior is made from rendered straw bales which have been coloured using sifted earth collected on the property.

Thanks to its hay bale insulation, the house is warm in winter and cool in summer, while a solar hot water system helps keep costs down.

Justin said the couple had always wanted a house that was conducive to family life and in the end the three bedroom house, with a separate study, proved perfect for their needs.

The house's open plan kitchen dining and lounge room adapts well for entertaining or hanging out with family, and all the bedrooms and the bathroom are separated from the main section of the house via a series of Japanese-style sliding doors.

"When the kids come home we want to spend time with them and not be distracted by stuff," he said.

"Having a big dining table also means we can invite friends and family over to share good food and wine."

No matter where you are on the property, the views over Lidster are spectacular and include glimpses of the couple's Strawhouse Vineyard.

Sixteen years after it was built, Mr Byrne says he still loves the house, and remembers it as a great place to raise the couple's daughters, Caitlin and Ruth, both of whom have now left home to pursue their own artistic careers.

"It's a nice part of the world, it's individual ... it's our place," Mr Byrne said.


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