REAL HOME: Fibro shack turned island paradise

REAL HOME: Fibro shack turned island paradise



A Scotland Island retreat becomes an island paradise after a magnificent makeover.












In the middle of Pittwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Scotland Island has become the ultimate retreat destination. And living on an island in the middle of Australia’s busiest city is nothing short of a privilege.

The island is accessible only by boat and has no water or sewer connection, so designer Ueli Schmied had a David-and-Goliath-sized battle on his hands when contracted to undertake a renovation here. Drawing on his 26 years’ experience as a designer, Ueli took the owner’s brief with two hands. Only allowed a budget of $200,000, Ueli was asked to turn a dilapidated fibro shack into a light and bright habitable home.

The owners had a few requests for Ueli. Not only did they want the living spaces enlarged but they also wanted better access to the outdoors and natural light, as well as more bedrooms and bathrooms. However, the main request was not to knock down the existing cottage.

Ueli had one great advantage on his side: the house was facing northeast. As any Sydneysider will tell you, this is a blessing — especially during the blistering summer months. The original dwelling was a two-bedroom, one-bathroom holiday cottage that sat on a sloping and heavily timbered site that looked tired and drained.

It’s now an open and spacious home, and there’s now a studio flat that sits behind the main residence. Ueli decided to use a dark blue shade on the exteriors that not only lifts the buildings but blends them with the colours of the surrounding bush. To make sure the buildings didn’t blend in too much, the window frames are painted white. The two colours complement each other and unify the home with the encircling water.

Both structures have easy outdoor access via stairs to large verandahs. In the main home, the large deck is incorporated into the indoor living area. The excellent use of glass sliding doors gives the impression of the outside coming inside, even when the doors are closed. Using glass, Ueli has taken advantage of the sometimes limited light. Being surrounded by giant flora and fauna, the original home’s small windows restricted the natural light flow.

The second trick Ueli had up his sleeve was for the kitchen. The installation of a glass roof has opened the living area in a unique way; while most renovations tend to spread out or go up, Ueli’s creative design not only allows the viewers to experience the bush up close but makes the space appear larger than it really is.

The newly built studio flat has a different style to the main home, but doesn’t detract from it. Using corrugated iron for the exterior, the studio conjures images of the Australian outback and farmers’ sheds. Inside, Ueli has used a combination of straight lines and large glass doors to visually enlarge the interior. A cork floor and antique iron bath were installed, which enhance the studio’s flexibility.

Ueli has designed and built a modern and appealing home that not only boosts its natural surroundings but brings an old dog back to life.


This project was designed by:

53 Wesley Street, Elanora Heights NSW 2101
0424 740 234

This project was built by:

Civil engineer Frederik Birkl
Landscape architect Brendan Seage
Certifier Tom Bowden


Kitchen/dining/living room/main house bedroom: New cypress pine floorboards polished and oiled with ARDVOS Universal wood oil from Livos
Studio bedroom: Comcork Flooring natural cork
Stairs: Recycled timber from existing building
WALLS (specific materials or paint colours):
Kitchen: Gyproc painted with Dulux low voc
Dining: Masonite painted with Dulux low voc
Living: Masonite painted with Dulux low voc
Bedroom: Masonite and Gyproc painted with Dulux low voc

Benchtop Commercial stainless-steel benchtop and shelves
Splashback Integrated in stainless-steel benchtop
Cabinetry No cabinetry
Appliances Emilia electrical stove and oven

Cabinetry: No cabinetry
Basin: Recycled basin
Tiles/walls and floor: Wall tile one at 400mm × 150mm above basin
Flooring: Tallowwood hardwood
Decking: 10mm spacing open
Sanitary fixtures: Recycled taps and showerhead
Shower/bath: Recycled cast-iron bathtub

Compact fluorescent lamps and halogens for outdoors

Glass: Single glass
Frames: Western red cedar

Studio roof: Colorbond in Ironstone
Walls: Studio — Colorbond in Ironstone; main house — compressed fibro painted in Dulux Ironstone
Paving: Woodchips recycled from property
Decking: Tallowwood hardwood oiled with organ oil decking oil
Landscaping: Planted native bushes and trees
Screening: Tallowwood hardwood oiled with organ oil decking oil
Furniture: Inherited

By Tessa Hoult
Photography by Ueli Schmied

From Renovate magazine Vol. 8 No. 2