REAL HOME: Bushfire house - Grand Designs Australia

REAL HOME: Bushfire house – Grand Designs Australia



‘Callignee 2’ was resurrected from the ashes of a house destroyed in the Black Saturday fires. Take a look inside the inspirational and experimental home that featured on the LifeStyle Channel’s Grand Designs Australia and the cover of the first issue of Grand Designs Australia magazine.

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_09

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_16


Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_23    Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_07

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_21

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_22

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_06

Grand Designs Australia_Bushfire House_19

The devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria destroyed more than 2000 homes and left a permanent mark on Australia — one that will never be forgotten.

Chris Clarke, a construction manager, was one of many who lost his home — Callignee 1, his “art-style treehouse”, a minimalist-style timber-and-steel structure — at Callignee in Gippsland. He designed the home with his now-deceased father and spent two years building it. Just one week after completion, his dream home burnt to the ground.

“After the Black Saturday fires, Callignee 1 stood there in her glory — a skeleton of twisted, oversized portal frames; broken brick blade walls; and debris-covered slabs in a haunting black-and-white setting,” Chris remembers. “Every bit I loved was gone.”

After months of refusing to visit the site, Chris and Sean Hamilton, the designer who Chris collaborated with on the project, came to the realisation that the home was not dead. Recuperating from his grief, Chris decided to build a new but vastly different home.

Callignee 1 was a “she” — a massive three-bedroom structural sculpture. She was designed to be big, comfortable and to stand out within the lush, green surroundings. Callignee 2 was always going to stand out, but as a burnt, bent and broken beauty. Chris wanted a place that he could contentedly call home, but he wanted the new dwelling to stand powerful and strong, emphasising its destructive history — a powerful, aggressive “he”.

He envisioned the new home to have just one master bedroom accessed directly through the front door, a cascade of open living areas, a centralised kitchen, a heightened lap pool and an impressive turtle pond. The second level would have a quirky loft bedroom and study, but most of this roof-level area would be dedicated to local and indigenous plants, linking the interior and exterior areas. “Callignee 2 was designed to be a rustic home that followed the fire element she had been through; she was designed to be free and fully sustainable — a place for healthy living,” Chris explains. “Oh, and this one would not burn down!”

Passionate about recycling and reusing, Chris sought out materials he could salvage from the bushfire. “Good things come from second chances,” he says, smiling. “Recycled materials tell stories and have character.” Following that frame of mind, Chris utilised a range of recycled and natural materials, trying to salvage as much of Callignee 1 as possible to keep costs to a minimum.

The timber that makes up the floor in the expansive living area is from a Sydney pier, an old abandoned tank found in the bush now functions as a sprinkler system on the garden roof level, and 100 tonnes of mammoth rocks from the native surroundings were craned in to encircle the structure, chasing that feeling of mass. These rocks are more than just decorative items; for Chris, they are embracing — yet protecting him from — the landscape he loves.

This notion of embracing the beautiful yet hazardous surroundings can be seen through an array of design characteristics. The redness of the old jarrah; the fire-resistant weathering steel; and the big, bold slabs of concrete all harmoniously work together to create a picture of mismatched beauty. Chris draws a wall between the landscape that he loves, while accepting its power and strength through adversity.

Building the house with sustainability in mind was also a key concern of Chris’. From the materials sourced and used to the implementation of an underground waste treatment system that ensures only organic material is used within the home, Callignee 2 is a quintessential organic construction right down to the power source (Chris lives five minutes away from Victoria’s largest power station but refuses to go on the grid).

The overall design approach is one of rusted metal. Inspired by the natural elements of the immediate and further surroundings, Chris was able to preserve the old and implement the new to create a free and organic home, one that exudes his character and embraces its setting.

The house accentuates the exquisiteness of contrast; sharp and clean lines contrast with rough and rusted textures, each room exuding a character of its own. The free-flowing kitchen is a favourite gathering space, combining elements of the old and new. The steel-and-concrete island bench was salvaged from Callignee 1 and shows the markings of the extreme heat through cracks and stains.

In the living room, Chris used an old pier crane base to build his dining table and chairs. This stunning focal point of the living area can’t be moved due to its sheer mass and the lounge seating is made from recycled old timber wharf planks, further accentuating the emphasis on the use of used natural materials.

A lap pool doubles as a water feature and is separated from the living space by a wall of toughened glass. This stunning facet provides underwater views from the living areas and encourages cool breezes to enter through louvred windows. Strategically positioned walls and floors of glass allow views to spiritually nourishing features, such as the yoga lawn and turtle pond.

The mezzanine level houses a guest bed and a study nook — it’s a quirky space that takes advantage of the spectacular views out to the harsh and beautiful landscape. Chris’ own bedroom carries through the home’s industrial theme with its rugged rustic bedhead and coarse ceiling. Even the bathroom space does not hold back; constructed from recycled timber, it’s yet another bucolic masterpiece, featuring high-quality Australian-made fittings. An unusual glass shower provides no privacy, but rather is a chance to be at one with the landscape.

Chris involved the environment in the design of his second home. The building is insulated both internally and externally, and argon-filled, double-glazed windows surround the house. Natural light fills the space through the expansive and numerous windows throughout the dwelling, and bi-fold doors allow the entire living space to mesh with the exterior surroundings.

“I designed the house to rise with the sun, and for the sun to go around the heart of the home, retiring with the sunset,” Chris explains, as the sun sets over his lyrical yet robust experimental structure, a home where he was able to bring together the classic elements of earth, air, fire and water in a fearless expression of his holistic approach to life and health.


This home was built by…


Architectural design SWALE Developments/Hamilton Design ( design Seed Interior Design ( Builder SWALE Developments ( Builder surveying East Gippsland Building Permits ( Structural engineering Cosentino Group (03 9558 9888) Plumbing Forsyth Plumbing (0488 758 621) Electrician PGD Electrical (0417 149 920)


Corten cutting and folding Romlik (03 5134 3999) Detailed excavation Gippsland Mini Hoe (0419 155 886) Equipment hire S&S Hire Morwell (03 5133 9958) Fireproof lining TBA Firefly ( Ironbark louvres Mountain Timber (1800 893 893) Joinery design and manufacture Broadbent Cabinets (03 5134 3666) Landscaping Bond Landscaping (0410 496 060) Large rock supply Cemex Quarries Jeeralang (03 5166 1444) Electrical supplies Active Electrical Distributors (03 5134 6039) Pool equipment and installation MagnaPool/Traralgon Heating & Leisure ( Pool tiles Home Elements ( Roofing and plumbing materials Plumbtec Traralgon (03 5176 5300) Septic greywater system Biolytix Water ( Steel and Corten supply BlueScope Steel ( Plants Mulga Native Plants (0428 513 092) Structural steel package Universal Fabrications (0419 572 161), Churchill Maintenance & Fabrication (03 5122 2044) Tanking/fasteners general Kencor Sales ( Timber floor Timber Floor Finishes (0418 698 501) Timber supply (general) Dahlsens ( Wharf timber supply Timbersearch ( Window and glass installation Bomba Shopfitters, Morwell (03 5133 0567)


Appliances Warehouse Sales Traralgon (03 5176 2277), Retravision Traralgon ( Boilermaker (balustrades) Peter Dean (0418 503 347) Glass and pool glazing supply Alan Hornsby (0400 163 222) Lighting Mance Design ( Photovoltaic supply and installation East Coast Green Energy (0429 795 570


Furniture supply Vast Interior (03 5174 9700), Suay (03 5176 1751) ) Lounge BJ Upholstery (0439 745 974), Real Futons ( Shoji screen Shoji & Tatami Company (0421 126 401) Spanish abstract artwork Peter Clarke (03 9347 1700)


Home insurance RACV Insurance ( Transport Redline Tilt Tray (0427 512 880) Window cleaning Extreme Window Cleaning (03 5168 1384) Crane and large transport Stephenson Transport (0418 592 822)

By Tatyana Leonov
Photography by Rhiannon Slatter
From Grand Designs Australia magazine 1.1