Sustainable Bushland home design from Grand Designs Australia

Grand Designs Australia: Sustainable bushland home


Nestled in hilltops with spectacular views of Byron Bay, this stylish, sustainable home embraces natural living and understated aesthetics with stunning results.

Sustainable home design atop hills in the bush

Bushland setting

Sustainable bushland home with gorgeous outdoor spaces Interesting bathroom design

Sustainable bush home open-plan interior design

gorgeous hilltop home Gorgeous design aesthetic in sustainable bushland home

Gorgeous views from sustainable hilltop home

Outdoor areas protected from the elements

Outdoor living

Open plan home design

Natural aesthetics and decor

Open plan living and dining

Open and airy home design

freestanding bath and contemporary bathroom

Contemporary bedroom design

open-plan kitchen design

HOUSE: Coorabell

LOCATION: Coorabell, NSW

A home design situated in a commanding hilltop position that looks out onto stunning Byron Bay, Mount Warning and the lush surrounding hinterland. This contemporary residence celebrates nature and sits lightly on the land. The owners, an environmentally conscious couple with one daughter, use this cliff-top beauty as a holiday retreat from their home in Sydney. What better way to escape the city than to immerse yourself in a setting as tranquil as this?

The project began with the blank 27-hectare site which offered uninterrupted views of the ocean to the north and east, and of Mount Warning and the Dividing Ranges to the west. The landowners called on renowned local architect Sam Zaher to create their ultimate getaway house.

The homeowners’ brief was for a modern, stylish and interesting home that was still “welcoming” and wasn’t “ostentatious.” They wanted a home that was airy, open and would age well. It was important for the home to be at one with its natural surroundings, respectful of its positioning and to capitalise on the views. With this in mind, Sam says he set about creating two decks, “each with equally impressive views.”

The principal design challenge of this new build was the site’s susceptibility to wind from all directions. The inclusion of two decks meant Sam could give his clients protection from the elements while affording them the desired outdoor lifestyle.

Outdoor living is definitely embraced in this home, with plenty of outside space. The use of large windows lets the light and natural bush scenes inside the house. Leveraging its stunning location, the home has a cantilevered designed and a U-shaped floor plan. This ensures plenty of space and creates separate outdoor areas that face different directions to ensure the residents can be protected from the wind, no matter the weather.

In a display of astute design, the homeowners can occupy a different area of the home comfortably during different seasons: with two north-facing decks and (for when things get really windy) an outdoor south-facing courtyard.

“The ability to be on an outdoor deck at any given time of the day means the sometimes harsh weather and winds do not affect the liveability of the spaces,” says Sam, adding that these are his favourite spaces within the design.

The residence’s living/dining room and open-plan kitchen are light and spacious, facing north with direct access to both decks. In addition to these central living spaces, the property incorporates: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study, central courtyard, laundry, garage and tool shed.

The interiors are kept neutral with whites, greys. The palette also uses natural elements of stone and timber to complement the bush and ocean views. Subtle patterns – the stripe of a rug, the grain in a kitchen benchtop — add depth. The result is a harmonious and calm atmosphere that embraces the outdoors. The furniture is sleek and low lying to draw the eye outside and the open floor plan flows. The home feels large and spacious.

Sophisticated, pared-back furniture is kept understated and creates a down-to-earth atmosphere. The occasional pop of lime green in a cushion adds a modern touch and offsets the natural bush green that envelopes the home.

“The core ideas grew largely from using the site’s surrounding as the design inspiration and taking that to create the architectural framework of the house and its various internal and external spaces,” says Sam.

In a home that embraces its setting so beautifully, and with eco-conscious owners, it makes sense that the property’s design is considerate of the environment and incorporates sustainable elements.

The living areas are all north facing, ensuring light-filled spaces and a good cross-flow of air. All the windows are double glazed for energy efficiency. Impressively, this house is off the grid with rainwater collected and harvested, an on-site waste system and an eight-kW solar-energy system with back-up batteries. “Each of these systems work to run the house without being connected to any local water, power or waste systems, negating the need for the owners to pay bills,” explains Sam.

This beautiful hinterland home is a real standout for its stunning contemporary design. This home cleverly capitalises on its views and location yet doesn’t scream “look at me!” Not only this, the property is a passive response to its setting that uses environmentally sustainable strategies.

“The overall design creates an attractive and highly comfortable environment, both inside and out, due to its orientation, multi-layer insulation, natural ventilation and each of the different aspects and vistas seen from the outdoor spaces,” says Sam.


Project team:

ARCHITECT Sam Zaher, Zaher Architects (
BUILDER Chris O’Reilly (0409 943 253)
INTERIOR DESIGNER Gerald Gilchrist (02 9969 5627)


STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Westera Partners (02 6674 8047)
HYDRAULIC ENGINEER Beavis & Cochrane (07 5591 1372)

Fixtures & Fittings:

TAPWARE Rogerseller (07 3251 4333,
EXTERNAL STONE Eco Outdoor (1300 13 14 13)

Photography by Michael Nicholson

Originally from Grand Designs Australia magazine Volume 3 Issue 1