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A 1980s Bushland Home Built Entirely From Recycled Materials

Sustainable Homes

In the mid 1980s, Robert and Judy Holland bought a vacant bushland block in Healesville, Victoria with dreams of creating a unique family home.

The block had no power nor water, but the couple proceeded to create their house from the ground up using recycled materials and a non ‘cookie cutter’ philosophy.

Almost four decades on, the couple take us inside the one-of-a-kind home featuring mudbricks and rock excavated from the property, 45 foot cathedral ceilings, and a wagon wheel integrated into the living room wall.

8th December, 2022

This mudbrick Healesville, Victoria home is completely one of a kind—a product of its entirely recycled material and handmade construction. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The owner-builders, Robert and Judy Holland, with their dogs Alex and Luna. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Robert has a passion for 20s and 30s classic cars. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Parrots frequent the home, which is surrounded by forest. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Scenic Yarra Valley views. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The tranquil swimming pool in the backyard. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Tropical plants surround the pool. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The interiors have been gradually styled over the couple’s near 40 years in the home. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

‘My favourite place in the house is the kitchen in winter where I’ll fire up the big old cast iron oven and cook something yummy like my mums ratatouille and play some Billie Holiday while I’m drinking some wine,’ says Judy. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The kitchen windows look out to lush greenery. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The 1880s original wood-burning stove was relocated from local Healesville pub. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Chandeliers in the home once hung in the Melbourne Town Hall, Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Rocks integrated into the walls were collected from the site. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The living room. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

A wagon wheel saved from an old steam tractor is integrated into the upper storey wall, allowing heat from the lounge room fireplace to flow into the upstairs bedroom. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

The bedroom. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Salvaged baltic pine on the cathedral ceilings and walls. Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Photos – Marnie Hawson. Editorial styling – Jeanine Gagnon

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 8th December 2022

This mudbrick Healesville, Victoria home is completely one of a kind—a product of its entirely recycled material and handmade construction by owners Robert and Judy Holland. 

The couple purchased the bushland block in the mid 1980s as a completely blank slate. ‘Its appeal was obvious with its abundance of wildlife and stunning landscape with views out towards the mountains,’ says Judy. 

A rigger by trade, Robert was looking to create a viable alternative to the many ‘cookie cutter’ houses of the time by using a fully recycled material palette.

He started from scratch, using mudbricks and rock excavated from the property with dynamite to build the walls up to 45 feet high.  

Salvaged jarrah and ironbark timbers feature inside and out, including huge beams salvaged from Sydney’s Manly pier during a refurbishment in the late ‘80s.

‘We named our eldest son Jarrah because of this and because they are such a strong and steady tree,’ says Judy. 

Other recycled materials include salvaged baltic pine on the cathedral ceilings and walls; aged lanolin soaked flooring sourced from sheep shearing sheds in NSW; antique windows with their original glass; and Victorian skirting boards.

A wagon wheel saved from an old steam tractor is integrated into the upper storey wall, allowing heat from the lounge room fireplace to flow into the upstairs bedroom. Even some of the bolts in the home came from old telephone poles. 

It took many years for this house to be completed, but the mammoth task was made possible due to Robert’s tenacity and vision. 

‘Robert is fierce with his capabilities,’ says Judy. ‘Even if he has to go away and have a think about a solution to something, he is always able to come back to it and translate it into reality.’

The home’s name, Kalamunda House, comes from the Aboriginal words Cala (home) and Munnda (forest), thus meaning, ‘A home in the forest.’ 

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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