sophiekovic

Help me design our eco bush retreat... from scratch! (I'm lost)

sophiekovic
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

I am a bit stuck. We purchased this fantastic 2 acre bush block which is part of a larger permaculture farm in Northern NSW.

I've never built before but after a very stressful few years building up my business, I want to turn my mind to building a rustic rural eco retreat that we can use as a way to get in touch with nature.

INSPO👇🏼



Barefoot, unpretentious, outdoor bath looking up at the stars type of magic.

But I have no idea how to make this happen!! How to do site plan or whatever is needed to make said magic real.

It will be completely off-grid and to start will be a tiny home (which is being built - you can see in the inspo pic) and tiny A Frame guest bedroom and a natural swimming pool, bathhouse an outdoor style kitchen, and I need a shed as well for rainwater harvesting and my solar panels.

Eventually I will probably take the cabins away and build a straw bale. But not for 5 + years.

I have the water and access sorted and a defined moodboard - it's taking inspiration from the land surrounding.

But what I have no idea about how to plan what goes where on the block or how to make my dream real - I know what I like when I see it but I'm not great at knowing how to make it so from scratch.

How do you design a block from scratch that feels the way you want it to? I'm afraid I'll just plonk some structures and gardens in and it will just be a bit... meh!

How do you make a vision come to life? Help, please!!!

✨INSPO✨


💥OUR SITE💥


Any help AT ALL is so much appreciated!

Thanks for your help and thanks for reading.

Sophie x

Comments (13)

  • PRO
    Dr Retro House Calls
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Don't rush it, take your time to read, learn and explore. Camp on your block to get a feel for it. Think about big picture things first, before you get into details. Think about budget, and non-negotiable elements that will cost - driveway access, water storage, solar panels, waste water treatment. What is left over is for your building. One of my clients summarized it by saying "ugly things before pretty things".


    Chalk Hill Off-Grid Cabin · More Info


    Visit sites like https://www.yourhome.gov.au/introduction/welcome-your-home that have lots of information about what is best for your climate and location. Also available in a book.

    Don't try to do it all yourself, but engage a local designer who is familiar with off-grid housing.

    Best of luck

    Dr Retro of Dr Retro House Calls

    sophiekovic thanked Dr Retro House Calls
  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    whereabouts in northern nsw... I have a great builder! And... I think that's basically my advice, find someone who has the expertise and skills who can understand and get passionate about your vision. Just a suggestion, maybe instead of building temporary structures you could build a pavilion style compound with outdoor areas connecting it. And that way you build one pavilion at a time and expand the design, but don't have to remove anything, or start over in 5 years. You could have a large patio area for outdoor living with a small pavilion with bedroom, bathroom and a kitchenette. later you build a larger living/kitchen dining pavilion and remove the kitchenette or convert to a laundry. then maybe later another bedroom wing all clustered around a central deck or patio. local councils usually have a minimum size you can build before planning is required and that could be your starting point.

  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    And growing up in this area the great thing about now is you don't have to figure out how to rig your own solar and dig your own toilet reed bed. there are plenty of off-the shelf options.

  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    I had another thought... as I always do. The thing I like about my builder is nothing is too hard, whatever I want to do, and whatever I've designed he has the imagination to understand what I'm thinking and the head and skills to then figure out how to make it work. I think it's always best to also understand what people are good at and let them do it. It's best not to try and get someone to build something that's not really what they do.
    How far north are you, what's the humidity like? I know where i am strawbale can sometimes be difficult, 1. to source straw in square bales to begin with. 2. has moisture and mould issues in this climate. Are there any strawbale builders in your area?
    Rammed earth can be a little more viable, but again you need massive eaves to protect from rainfall as when it rains its pretty heavy.

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    All great advice, I am hoping to move onto a rural property on the North Coast NSW region and Plan to build a Liveable shed, for cost effective ease of build. This following link is one of many that you can find on this subject. The examples shown are more than you are wanting but the content is very helpful, Which area are you in


    https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/features/list/livable-sheds-top-3-shed-homes-in-australia

    And

    https://www.lindsayjohnston.net.au/low-cost-shed-house-australia



  • oklouise
    2 months ago

    excellent examples of steel buildings but prices quoted are unrealistic...the most basic small steel frame kit might cost $10000-$15000 but if we want running water, windows and a toilet etc etc it will cost an extra $150,000..our recently completed 70sqm steel holiday house cost $165,000 without a solar system

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    Liveable sheds are a great concept, the examples in my links aren't anything like what you are planning, but they are worth looking at and adding to your research. Fianou suggestion to find yourself a good local builder is really good advice but could be difficult as they are extremely busy these days. Perhaps getting one to prepare the site etc and bring in a prefab liveable shed. And as Fianou suggested planning to be able to add extra Sheds / Pavillion style buildings in the future. What is your internet connection like in that area

  • lyndagoulden
    2 months ago

    TAKE YOUR TIME before you commit to plan. Don't rush and don't let others rush you. The section will talk to you and tell you what it needs - if you are prepared to take the time to look and listen to it.


    Where does the sun rise and set? Does the site face North, South, East or West? Where are the views? What direction do the prevailing winds come from? Are there any water courses that might cause flooding issues? What direction do you approach the site from? Are there existing trees or other natural features that need to be included and considered. What soil type are you dealing with - rocky, volcanic, boggy, clay etc.


    Make a list of all the things that you think will be important to know about the site itself for ever starting picking out floor plans. Once you have the answers to those questions, the type of floorplan you require will begin to automatically narrow a little, making your job a lot easier.

    When you have a good picture of where you feel your basic rooms might be best located, then work out a budget. Build in a contingency amount that you will not go above. THEN go and talk to an architect.


    I know, the idea of employing an architect sounds expensive and it can be but it can also be the best money you ever spend.

    Friends of ours have just built an architecturally designed home on a very modest budget and it is just the most wonderful wee house, with loads of unique features that had they gone for a standard 'off the plan' house, they would have missed out on.

    I'm not going to suggest the type of house you should have. You don't need to know that from me.

    Formulate what design types you like. Make a scrap book of colours and styles you like. When I read your letter, your thoughts seemed to me, to be all over the place.

    You are excited - I get that but start to control you enthusiasm and begin to narrow your focus just a little..... actually, quite a lot.

    I get that this is your dream home but if you don't focus, you can make it your nightmare and that would be such a shame. Start with the basic approach above.

    Listen to others by all means but once you know the basis of design you are going for, stick with it - and that's why I say to use an architect. A good architect will help you to focus.


    Best of luck. It will be nice to see the progress.

  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    i thought of something we did in our first house. we drew a pencil line across one blank wall, the left was the beginning and the right the end. ANY ideas or thoughts we had went onto a post it note and then were stuck on the wall around where in the process we thought it should go. that way any special little ideas you have that might not be a right now thing are saved for later, it helps get those details out of your head and clear space for the practical logistical things, Now, of course, you will end up moving things around,changing your mind realising its just not gonna happen this year... but it helps. mood boards etc are great, but they don't really include things like 'hire a plumber to x cost around $xxxx" my current house i did something similar but didn't have as much wall. i just chose what areas to tackle each year of our renovations. and of course everything has changed as it evolves but it still helps!

  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    i also remember that we wrote straight on the wall on the left...
    "buy post it notes" haha also buy good ones so they don't fall off!

  • oklouise
    2 months ago

    we had a sign painted on a wall of our first reno that said "it will be nice when it's finished" and the day we painted over that sign was a day for great celebration

  • fianou luca
    2 months ago

    @okloise I need to do that!