Grand Designs Australia: Best of both worlds

Grand Designs Australia: Best of both worlds


Lewis and shirley de Vere Tyndall successfully navigate their busy lives between the Byron Shire and Sydney

Living a typical, city-centric life, a chance trip to visit friends on the Far North Coast of New South Wales triggered a life-changing decision for Lewis and Shirley de Vere Tyndall. Lewis was working for the Supreme Court and Shirley was still flying regularly for work. “Lewis was working on a local case and we stayed in a beachfront cabin just outside of Byron Bay,” says Shirley. “We both fell in love with the area instantly. We were absolutely besotted with the region.”

Lewis recalls a moment that he explains as seminal. “We were both wondering if we could make the move

We envisaged always having an open-style home with large living spaces that featured lots of glass and allowed in plenty of natural light
to Byron and base our lives here rather than the city,” he says. “I remember looking at Shirley at a pivotal moment when we were discussing our options, and she looked back at me and said, ‘Why don’t we just try it?’ And I am forever grateful that she was open to it.”

Lewis spent almost six months looking for a property that would fulfil their ultimate wish list. “It had to be in what is known as the ‘Golden Triangle’,” says Lewis. “There is a region between Federal, Newrybar and Byron where property continues to appreciate. But I also wanted acreage and somewhere that had permanent water and was not visible from the road.”

After finding a property, Shirley wasn’t quite as convinced as Lewis. But once she settled into the residence, the breathtaking views and surrounding natural beauty seduced her. “I really wasn’t sure that I liked it at first, but I realised the beauty of this place once I lived here,” says Shirley.

Initially, there was a small house on the property, which was well positioned to capture the stunning views of the surrounding valleys, but the home was cramped and hot. “I had no idea how hot it can get up here,” says Shirley. “The first thing we did was put in the pool, as the beach was 20 minutes away, and it was the best thing we could have done!” The dramatically set pool is the centrepiece of the entire property, with its infinity edge and valley views serving as the central anchor for the new extension that Shirley and Lewis commenced after its installation.

Starting with a recommended builder, the couple were off to a good start. “We were very lucky with the builder we had,” says Shirley. “We went with Wes Kennedy and he was brilliant, plus he had a great team of tradies working with him. This was our first build and we got the best-possible result. We envisaged having an open-style home with large living spaces that featured lots of glass and allowed in plenty of natural light.”

The family lived in the original wing of the house while the new wing was being built. “We knew we wanted the living area that faced out to the pool to be as wide as the pool area,” says Shirley. “We had lots of ideas and found a great draftsman, so we had plenty of meetings with him and we all had lots of input for the final design. Once we finished the build, it was up to me to do the interiors, which, of course, I loved.”

For Lewis, the move from basing his life in the city to calling his farm home has benefitted not just his personal life, but also his work. “As a barrister, I write opinions that are based on abstract, critical thinking,” he says. “I look back at some of the opinions I have written since we have lived here and I can see they are logical, calm and clear-sighted. I know I have done some of my best work here. It’s been a journey, though. I can honestly say that basing our life here has extended our lives.”

With the couple’s daughter, Annabel, finishing school this year, Lewis and Shirley envisage they will base their lives more at the farm. “Without the pull of Annabel’s education, I think we will be free to spend a lot more time here, which is, of course, how we always imagined it would be,” says Shirley. “We have made some wonderful friends here, plus there’s no shortage of city friends wanting to come and visit.”

Written by Tracey Hordern