Back in 2014, the couple were hiking through the Bay of Fires region near Binalong Bay when they spotted a steep bush block at the end of a dirt track for sale.
‘We had a good feeling about it immediately. The view of the bay was just breathtaking. The elevation and its east-facing position on the side of the hill among the trees felt sheltered and protected,’ says Lisa.
‘We didn’t hesitate for a second and ended up buying the property soon after. It was one of those moments where you just know it’s the right decision.’
The couple spent many years ‘getting to know’ the bush block in St Helens to inform their eventual house design. They initially planned on a 100 square metre house, but this was scrapped at the 11th hour in favour of a smaller 60 square metre footprint.
The resulting home spans two pavilions (one for cooking and relaxing, the second for sleeping and showering) to incorporate both east and north aspects, and maximise solar efficiency. Moving between the two pavilions requires journeying outside—an intentional choice to recreate the feeling of camping and encourage engagement with the environment.
Furthermore, the house requires adjusting to suit the season and time of day. ‘We really enjoy the way we have to “sail” the building to the weather conditions by operating awnings and blinds,’ says Lisa. ‘To be comfortable, we must engage in this interactive way.’
The use of galvanised iron and hardwood timber speaks to the Australian tradition of buildings in the bush and by the coast. A Japanese-style engawa constructed of steel grating extends around each pavilion at floor level, allowing the building to ‘float’ above the landscape.
Tasmanian furniture maker Laura McCusker created select pieces throughout especially to observe the landscape beyond.
Swansong operates off-grid by producing a surplus of solar energy, but notions of environmental sustainability permeate every element of the property.
Lisa explains, ‘Sustainability for us means so much more than being off-grid. It includes building a home that has a small footprint to minimise the impact on the immediate environment and use less resources in its construction.
‘Our idea of sustainability is about being robust, built to last, and not needing much maintenance. This must be balanced with affordability, self-sufficiency (no power or water bills), being bushfire ready, and low in embodied energy.’
The site itself has been enriched by Sam’s own landscape design incorporating local gravel toppings, granite boulders, and native plants. ‘We took special care to choose seedlings from other areas of the property and bought over 400 tubestock plants from an Indigenous nursery to restore the area that was most affected by the construction work,’ says Lisa.
What stands is a humble home immersed in nature that few are lucky to experience. Bookings are now open for Swansong, which is available for short-term stays 100 days of the year.
Wake up to the sunrise from your bed; watch sea eagles fly overhead; and tune into the kookaburra chorus signalling the end of each day all from this one-of-a-kind property. As Lisa says, ‘There is nothing quite like it.’