Kitchen of Clifftop at Hepburn Evoke solar accommodation

A cosy getaway to electrify your interiors and lifestyle


Solar, sustainability and style meet in one gorge-ous location

Australia is facing some big questions about the future of energy and what works practically for the Australian home and lifestyle. Making the case for solar, the award-winning Clifftop at Hepburn is a series of villas, chalets and glamping spaces nestled into the heart of Daylesford, Victoria. This cosy accommodation is a delight, located an hour and a half north-west of Melbourne’s CBD and a short 10-minute drive from such local treats as a lavender farm, spa, The Mill Markets and cider tasting.

Clifftop at Hepburn living room facing onto the gorge.

We stayed at Evoke, one of three beautiful villas that face the sheer drop of the gorge. Robin Larsen of TreeARC designed the interior and exterior of the villas, choosing the colours, materials and, of course, structure of these charming spaces. The striking oxidised metal sheeting of the facade is gorgeous and rustic, complemented by circle cut-outs at the east point for a distinctly modern edge. In contrast, the gorge-facing side of the house is composed of pure, transparent materials to best soak up the northern sunshine and incredible ravine views. Come rain, hail or shine, the captivating scenery was the showpiece of the stay.

Exterior of Clifftop at Hepburn Evoke accommodation with the sun beaming down.

While these luxury villas were created with sustainability in mind — built with an array of reused materials, a water tank and northern orientation — it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that Clifftop teamed up with Tesla and made the switch to solar. Each villa boasts a 5kW solar system and Powerwall — Tesla’s home battery system designed to enable self-consumption of solar power and reduce reliance on the grid — as well as a wall connector to charge Tesla’s all-electric cars.

These unobtrusive features were the crowning glory of the building, showcased with pride but so sleekly designed it didn’t draw attention. An iPad at the entryway of the accommodation controlled the stereo and mapped out the real-time energy transfer between the solar panels, grid, home and car. The villa relies almost solely on the solar panels, though at times of high energy use, electricity can be pulled from the grid for a bit of a boost. Since the solar system sends energy to the grid more often than not, the net usage remained in the positive
throughout our stay!

Electric Model 3 Tesla car plugged that charges uses the solar gains of the villa.

Tesla kindly lent us a Model 3 for the weekend so we could try the full eco-system, experiencing not only the solar home, but the solar lifestyle! Driving an electric vehicle (EV) is a unique experience; the engine is just as quiet at 10km/h as it is at 110km/h. Much like an iPhone, Tesla EVs are continuously being updated for new features, games, and recently even the BETA auto-steer mode, which drives for you, keeping the car in your lane and with a safe gap between vehicles ahead. The whoopee cushion and rainbow road features were also fun to play with, while romance could be instantly added with the fireplace feature for some jazzy tunes and a cracking wood fire appearing on the central screen. Everything was smooth and intuitive, including charging the car overnight at the villa, with the wall connector placed externally for easy access.

Firepit aflame in living room of the solar-powered Clifftop at Hepburn villa.

It was definitely hard to leave those beautiful interiors. Industrial and rustic aesthetics met seamlessly, with steel elements and black pendant lights complementing reclaimed timber and comfy leather furniture. The slightly lowered living room was kept simple with timber rafters and a recessed TV wall, so upon entry the tech is tucked away from view. Clever! My favourite feature was undoubtedly the integrated reading nook stacked with pillows and throws for cosy me time — and still that amazing vista. The freestanding wood fireplace easily warmed the room, the perfect offset to a chilly evening. The kitchen is set slightly above and packed with all the niceties of your own so you can dine in with ease. Narrow windows above the bench line allow light to shine on stainless-steel tops and warm the contrasting black walls and timber elements. The gantry and pendant lights are integrated for an asymmetrical look I’ve not seen before — another idea I want to take home for my own kitchen!

Large black bathtub in bathroom.

Clifftop at Hepburn was named Australia’s No.1 Romantic Getaway and a large factor in this recognition had to be the bathrooms. The master ensuite features a huge double rain showerhead, a spa and a gorgeous concealed sink. Alongside the spa is a long, narrow window, so greenery is never far from sight but privacy is still assured. Oversize circle mirrors make the bathrooms feel even bigger. In the second bathroom, a stunning black marble bathtub takes centre stage, with a shower and similar sink-and-mirror combo completing the moody retreat feel. Once you’ve remotely lifted the smart blinds, you’re greeted from bed with gorgeous views into the ravine. Outdoor areas just below each villa are equipped with different seats to enjoy the location, whether a gigantic pod-like structure to curl up in or a suspended day bed slowly swaying from beneath a viewing platform.

Outdoor viewing deck and furniture.

The whole villa is incredibly tactile and contrasts dark colours with warm timbers and soft furnishings perfectly. Even the shower tiles have a marvellous texture that adds to the whole space. I found inspiration in every nook and corner, and it was incredibly exciting to see where energy technology is advancing. Clifftop at Hepburn felt like a little piece of the future, where
luxurious comfort and unassuming style create a haven that thrives off the sun. | Villas: 3 | Rates: From $395

Photos courtesy of Tesla and Clifftop and Hepburn
Featured in Grand Designs Australia Volume 9 Edition 3