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A Floating Eco Villa Off Palm Beach

Architecture

Though it’s located just metres from the shore of Sydney’s Palm Beach, this solar-powered floating villa captures the feeling of being miles away.

We spoke to Chuck Anderson, the inspiring engineer/craftsman behind Lilypad to find out more… than we ever could have guessed!

6th February, 2019

Lilypad is certainly one-of-a-kind. Photo – courtesy of Lilypad.

Completely powered by solar, it has no fuels onboard, yet luxury and function are not compromised one bit.Photo – courtesy of Lilypad.

‘I identified that boating and the processes involved can be quiet intimidating to some,’ tells Chuck Anderson, of his inspiration to design and build both Lilypad itself and the variety of tailored experiences offered aboard. Photo – courtesy of Lilypad.

Chuck grew up sailing and wanted the oft inaccessible experience of relaxing on the water to be more widely available to others. Photo – courtesy of Lilypad.

Members and guests can even arrive to Lilypad by seaplane, among a host of other included modes of transport. Photo – courtesy of Lilypad.

Elle Murrell
Wednesday 6th February 2019

‘I wanted to have people experience all the amazing things that come with being on the water, but then not skimp on the fit-out.’ – Chuck Anderson.

Picturesque views. Yes, please. Sustainably designed. A must. Stylish fixtures. Amazing. Close to the city yet tranquil and private. Huge bonus. Floating… Wow! Well, why not!?

This summer, Chuck Anderson launched Lilypad, located just off Sydney’s paradisal Palm Beach. The villa that he designed offers a ‘complete walk on, walk off service’ with transfers, gourmet private-chef-prepared meals, a self-drive personal vessel, and loads of other lavish options – you can fly in on a seaplane if you want to!

But that’s not all that distinguishes Lilypad. It’s a unique offering, and Chuck is equally intriguing. Cutting his teeth as a metal fabrication apprentice at nearby Gonsalves Boatshed from age 19, he worked on classic boats as well as high-end homes in the area. Later, he found his calling designing innovative, sustainable solutions for a whole host of applications at his Little Mill business, from a bio-diesel processing plant to a replica WWII submarine!

I’ve just got to let him tell you more…

How did you come to be involved in your unique trade, but also sustainable design?

I definitely started at the traditional craftsman end of the scale. During my apprenticeship, I worked under some old-school salty sea dogs that have more knowledge and skill than most philosophers, astronomers, and engineers put together. It was a very traditional workshop, mostly hand tools were used, we had fewer resources than most but had higher-quality output due to creative and unique processes.

I was specialising in stainless steel fabrication and all of our work was on exclusive homes in Palm Beach and on classic timber boats. I would spend my days working on both, so I think the creation of Lilypad inadvertently started from there through exposure and learning from two very exclusive worlds. Monday morning could see the final fabrication and install of a custom stainless steel bathtub for a 20-million-dollar home and by the afternoon we’d be designing and fabricating a swim platform for a for beautiful old Halverson cruiser.

After eight years there, I began doing my own little jobs on the side and a mate of mine approached me to build him a bio-diesel processing plant – basically we designed and built a portable trailable unit that turned waste vegetable oil from fish shops into a fuel that could power a brand new diesel vehicle. Next thing I knew we had covered 12,000-kilometres on this alternative fuel source and we had a [National Georgraphic] film crew doing a documentary on it all.

This experience opened my eyes to what ‘work’ could be, and whilst studying marine engineering in Newcastle, I began a company called Little Mill, which I still own and operate today. At Little Mill we do extremely innovative designs and builds of sets and components for brands and events, anything from a working WWII replica submarine for SBS to a 10-metre tennis racquet for the Australian Open. I completed my engineering studies, but never searched the classifieds for a job!

Wow! So, have you ever created anything like Lilypad before?

Not only have I never done something like this, it is somewhat of a world first. Europe has similar projects that have been sources of inspiration, however, Lilypad is certainly one-of-a-kind. Completely powered by solar, it has no fuels onboard, yet luxury and function are not compromised one bit.

I have always had an affiliation with the water, learning to sail at five and spending every school holiday with my family on a boat. After owning my own boats later in life and taking friends out, it became quite evident to me that not everyone shared the ability to feel 100% confident in all the processes of boat ownership that had become second nature to me. Nearly everyone loves to be aboard, sit back, relax and maybe even have a glass of rosè with some oysters. But, often the steps to get to that point are either out of someone’s skill set or simply aspects they want to avoid.

The next big thing that I identified that has shaped Lilypad was that no matter how luxurious or grand a boat is, it’s always restrained by certain design features. The hydrodynamics of a boat and its ability to travel smoothly through the water mean interior space must be compromised significantly. Every bathroom on a boat has its tricks and the bedroom is always like, well, ‘being on a boat’.  I wanted to break the mould and have people experience all the amazing things that come with being on the water, but then not skimp on the fit-out and finishes of the interior.

We achieved this by creating a shape that is less efficient for traveling through the water. It is my belief that most people don’t go boating to travel from A to B, they go boating to be at anchor relaxing (at B). We have secured one of the most spectacular mooring locations in Australia and this blew the design wide open! We can still move the vessel around and relocate her, but it’s a bit more of a process.

How did you actually make this ambitious project work?

Lilypad has taken years of research to understand Australian commercial marine laws. And then reverse engineering a design that exceeds all the stringent safety, design and structural requirements that come with operating a commercial vessel in Australia.

In short, it is a long and expensive journey but if not done this way, it would have been a wasted one. We have managed to create a beautiful space that aesthetically exceeded my expectations, whilst also exceeding the requirements of the harsh marine environment.

Why should we not miss a chance to experience Lilypad? And how does one go about organising a stay?

To not lift a finger and experience the connection with water that Lilypad offers is honestly quiet surreal. Being on the water in a space with 3.2-metre bifold doors, exposed hardwood rafters and an array of modern luxuries is also quite breathtaking. It is the ultimate way to relax and enjoy what I believe is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Lilypad operates on a membership basis and private access is only given to these members, with the addition of public access at other times. They can entertain friends, family or clients during the day with a host of luxury inclusions such as luxury chauffeured transfers and private tender service. Or book an overnight stay for two and indulge in the 40-bottle wine cellar and chef-prepared meals that are inclusive!

Lilypad stays and membership applications, as well as viewing appointments, are now open. Find out more at Lilypadpalmbeach.com.au or request an info pack by emailing membership@lilypadpalmbeach.com.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net