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An Off-The-Grid Eco Bush Retreat Rebuilt From The Ashes

Stays

A lot about Callignee Eco Bush Retreat feels extraordinarily like fate. Just two weeks after its original owner Chris Clarke completed his dream off-the-grid home nestled in the Gippsland bushland, the Black Saturday fires tore through the dense, dry underbrush and destroyed it all.

Ten years later and Callignee has been painstakingly rebuilt and passed onto new custodians, Maggie and Chris Jones, whose combination of spiritual pull and gut instinct drew them to the isolated property.

27th February, 2020

Callignee burnt down in the Black Saturday fires, two weeks after the build was completed. Now, with new owners, it is a full-time luxury eco-stay, totally off the grid and self-sufficient. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Guests have exclusive access to the 5 acre property. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

A suspension bridge provides access to the second floor. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The mezzanine bedroom and study nook. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Maggie decorates the interiors herself, scouring Camberwell market stalls, Etsy, op shops and making ornaments herself. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Terrain and house intersect everywhere possible, allowing the landscape to integrate into the building and vice versa. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Granite paving stones and boulders line the exterior of the property to form a natural protective layer around the house. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

The 19-metre magnesium lap pool is separated from the living area by a sheet of toughened glass. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

‘The first time we went to visit, all we saw was a magnificent, raw, beautiful construction nestled amongst five acres of glorious bushland’ says owner, Maggie Jones. Photo – Marnie Hawson.

Sasha Gattermayr
Thursday 27th February 2020

‘The house attracts the exquisiteness of contrast’. Maggie Jones

If this story sounds cinematic, that’s because it is. After Chris Clarke’s dream off-grid home burnt down in the Black Saturday fires just two weeks after it was completed, he painstakingly rebuilt it.

When Maggie and Chris Jones came to acquire it a few years later (despite a lot of outside advice cautioning them against it), they knew this was where they would raise their family. ‘It was our chance to live a smarter life with lighter footprints and a more conscious choice for our planet,’ explains Maggie. The house had fallen into slight disrepair, suffering from its raw proportions and exposure to the elements. They landscaped the entire property and until upgrading their solar panels and battery inverters two years ago, lived by candlelight at night! Now it operates as a full-time luxury eco stay.

‘The house attracts the exquisiteness of contrast,’ Maggie explains. ‘Sharp and clean lines with rough and rusted textures, each room exudes a character of its own.’

The eco-retreat embodies ‘luxury’ in what has come to be a modern scarcity: solitude. The free-flowing kitchen forms the central node of the house, opening it out the north and connecting it to a 19-metre magnesium lap pool that doubles as an indoor water feature through a tough glass pane dividing it from the living room. Two bedrooms are spread out over both levels and an outdoor shower invites guests to bathe in rainwater collected from on-site harvesting tanks. A suspension bridge provides access to the upper floor and red jarrah can be glimpsed through every surface.

Callignee II’s environmental symbiosis is unparalleled: it’s positioned to rise with the sun so its day-long cycle streams into the heart of the home during all daylight hours. The whole structure is surrounded by granite boulders that act as a natural shield to the dwelling, the way one would shelter themselves if out in the bush. The natural surroundings insert itself everywhere, just as the house has inserted itself within them; ‘With every season that the landscape changes, so does Callignee,’ Maggie says.

Of course, Maggie sums up the atmosphere of her tranquil, halcyon setting best: ‘The moment you drive up the winding overgrown entrance, there is an overwhelming feeling of being connected to nature, a moment of solitude, a rare second to disconnect from everything you have left behind.’

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Book a stay at Callignee Eco Bush Retreat here.

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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.

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