You are looking at the spectacular home of Melbourne designer / floral artist / restauranteur / entrepreneur / ‘no waste’ advocate and visionary Joost Bakker, his wife and business partner Jennie, and their three gorgeous girls Ruby (10), Charlie (8) and Remi (5). The Bakkers live in Monbulk, which is a sweet and very scenic spot, around 45 mins East of Melbourne, at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges. Originally from Holland, Joost moved to Monbulk with his family at age 9, and he has lived in the area ever since (he even went to the same local primary school his kids now attend!).
Now, we’ve done a few stories on Joost’s various amazing projects over the years, and I feel very lucky these days to count him as a friend. Joost truly is one in a million – he’s the kind of guy who just enters a room and lights up the space, igniting in everyone present a sense of urgent enthuasiam for whatever he happens to be campaigning for that day. Joost has spoken at TEDx Sydney, he’s staged countless events and pop-up projects to encourage discussion about sustainable design practices and his ‘zero waste’ philosophy. He is known for his vertical gardens, his inspired ‘Greenhouse by Joost’ restaurants in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, Silo – his waste free restaurant in Melbourne’s Hardware lane, and his endless creations and installations using ‘the stuff other people throw out’.
At the end of the day, despite his indefatigable boyish optimism, Joost is deadly serious about proving that buildings can be designed more efficiently, can be used to grow much of the food we eat, and can run waste-free – and he practices what he preaches. His own home, built on 6 lush, productive acres in Monbulk, is perhaps the greatest example of these philosophies in practice.
Joost and Jennie bought this property in 2000 – it had previously been a cherry farm for over 40 years. Initially, they cleared the land, installed massive concrete water tanks in the ground, and planted over 200 trees, struck from cuttings – ‘Jennie’s father is a genius as striking cuttings’ says Joost. In 2006 they were ready to build.
A connection between the indoors and outdoors was paramount to Joost’s design for his sprawling family home. The house is BIG – around 600 square metres – incorporating Joost’s large workshop, garage and the family home within one structure, and surrounded by incredible green lawns and plantings on all four sides, and a view to rolling hills as far as the eye can see. ‘I never understood the disconnect between homes and gardens in Australia’ says Joost. ‘In Holland, everyone lives in their gardens. I wanted to build a home where people actually spend time in the gardens. I always wanted a home where the garden feels like part of the house’
Joost says he wasn’t originally planning to manage the entire build himself, but due to his somewhat unconventional construction ideas, he says ‘no one would build it for us’. And so, in typical form, he took on the project himself, hiring casual labourers and backpackers, plus a few skilled mates to realise his vision. The house was completed in 8 months.
The Bakker home is fundamentally designed on the principle that everything used in its construction has to be completely recyclable. Joost’s goal was to ensure that every steel beam, every sheet of plywood, every window frame, every single element of the structure could potentially be unscrewed, dismantled and used for something else in the future. For this reason, Joost refrains from using glues, plaster, floor polishes or other finishes which render the base building materials unrecyclable. His home is built on a 90% recycled concrete slab, using a a steel frame (Joost loves steel for its recyclable qualities), strawbails (Joost’s signature building material!), blockwork for thermal mass, and plywood. All ply floors and ceilings are simply ‘soaped’, a Swedish idea which protects them and gives them a bleached, washed out look, without the need for harsh chemicals or polishes.
Outside, the building is instantly recognisable by Joost’s signature vertical garden of terracotta pots covering the entire facade. This impressive structure houses over 11,000 wild strawberry plants (!!), grown from seeds supplied by Joost’s uncle in Europe. And of course, a vast vegetable garden out back provides enough fruit, veg and herbs to feed far more than the 5 people who live here, as well as daily eggs from a cheerful gaggle of chooks (excess produce is distributed to friends, family and sometimes even makes its way into the Kitchen at Silo).
There’s SO MUCH to admire about this unique Melbourne home. Of all the homes we’ve featured, this one perhaps more than any other really presents the most accurate portrait of its inhabitants. There’s an integrity here that only comes from a genuine passion for doing things differently, for seeking better ways to design and live in the spaces we inhabit, and for always asking ‘why can’t we do it this way?’.
Joost is pretty pumped to be opening a ‘Silo by Joost’ restaurant in Brighton in the UK later this year – keep your eyes peeled for that special project! A little closer to home, he has plans to stage an exhibition all about Silo’s uniquely sustainable hospitality business practices and zero waste philosophy atSpacecraft Australia in Gertrude st, Fitzroy in July and August. I’ll keep you posted!