Unearthing a Wabi-Sabi Inspired Family Home

23 August 2023


The Block 2019 favourites Deb and Andy Saunders from DNA of Design have transformed a mismatched and outdated home and transported it into the 21st Century.

The client, Mishelle and Ross, are a blended family of seven, so it was essential that the new home was practical to support their busy family dynamics. Set on the Gold Coast Hinterland, ‘House 2’, was inspired by the nature surrounding the property and was renovated with large family living in mind.

 “We were heavily inspired by the home’s surroundings, located on the Gold Coast and enveloped by lush forestry that’s home to a koala or two and plenty of kangaroos, and we love how they regularly gather among these large gum trees. It’s such an amazing view,” says Deb.

“We used the colours of the bark and leaves from the gum trees to inspire the design of the entire home. We wanted it to feel as though the interior and exterior spaces were in complete harmony with nature.

“One of our favourite parts is the new wing of the house that reaches right out into the trees, bringing all that nature inside to feel like you’re floating.”

The overall style feels natural and relaxed, playing into the wabi-sabi design philosophy but with a contemporary flair incorporating clean lines and shapes.

The façade of House 2 comprises Queenslander-inspired features with bright timber cladding and a large porch. Facing west, the front of the home is subject to significant heat during the tough Queensland summers.

To keep it cool but remain stylish and in line with the wabi-sabi aesthetic, awnings were selected from the Luxaflex Evo Awning range. Luxaflex Evo Awnings are made in Australia specifically for the Australian climate.⁠

Deb says durability was crucial having lived in Queensland, and that she knew Luxaflex awnings were reliable, being built for the toughest environments, with the wide variety of colours available complementing the richer tones that feature throughout the home as well as some of the more modern touches.

The comprehensive range includes six models with built-in UV protection, providing shelter from the sun and rain with ample airflow through smooth operating systems.

Additionally, to create a statement piece and a sense of privacy outside, modular walls were added behind the mailbox, blending with the style of the home whilst also adding character to the surrounding landscape.

Originally tired and uninviting, the inside of the home underwent drastic changes to convert it into a space that was practical for the blended family.

“We moved the kitchen from upstairs to the downstairs area and added a new living and sitting space downstairs too. We love how the house now hugs the pool and outdoor area, which was previously mainly accessible via the old staircase, meaning that the entire floor plan flows more seamlessly,” Deb says.

“Seeing the home take on such a brand-new, fresh aesthetic and improve its functionality in many ways has been incredibly satisfying to witness.”

Central to creating a seamless flow throughout the house was the transformation of all the walls, utilising Gyprock Supercheck to enable a more cohesive look and feel.

At the beginning of the renovation, Deb thought it would be impossible to make the old and new sections work together, however, Gyprock helped to achieve harmony in the walls without any issues, stating how everything now looks seamless and that “you can’t even tell where the old part ends and the new part begins”.

“We love that the Gyprock products in this home are all Australian Made and that Supercheck has better acoustics and impact resistance, perfect for this large family and Gyprock Flexible enables curved moments for a beautiful result,” Deb says.

Being the heart of the home, the kitchen was a major part of the renovation, transforming it from its drab 90s feel to a modern family space.

Being seen as the hero areas of the home, the kitchen, pantry and laundry had been three spaces that flow well off one another according to Deb, stating that they’re almost like “one large room, yet they can still be closed off and separated when needed”.

Sitting in the new downstairs extension, a stone benchtop was chosen to bring a sense of the outdoors in via natural materials. Featuring gold flecks in the stone, it was paired with brass finishings and a splashback to reiterate the wabi-sabi theme.

“We found it quite challenging to join the old and new sections of the house. In the original part of the house, we ended up building the laundry and butler’s pantry, while we built the kitchen in the extension area,” Deb says.

“In the end, the whole area flows like a dream and the space we created is now big and roomy. Something else that stands out is the ceiling height in the living room alongside a soaring sandstone fireplace, it’s absolutely insane how gorgeous it looks. We then added a mezzanine above the kitchen due to engineering issues that we worked around.”

Moving to the master bedroom and ensuite, a hotel-like suite has been designed. Opening up with a grand entrance, the bedroom hallways feature two walk-in robes for the couple on either side.

Through the bedroom, the ensuite stands at the end of the space with double showers and a standalone bath. Deb and Andy wanted the space to feel like a spa, so a neutral palette and earthy tones were incorporated to induce a calming feel.

With the lack of natural light, the team was faced with one of its main challenges. To overcome this, one side of the room was extended and opened it up by installing glass sliding doors overlooking the tree-filled backyard.

“We decided to create a layered effect using Luxaflex Duette Shades and Sheer Curtains to help make the rooms appear fuller and more finished. These coverings worked perfectly with a gorgeous, lightweight feel and soft white tone to match the rest of the home’s aesthetic,” she says.

“We used this effect in other rooms including the living and rumpus rooms and love the layered element that’s been achieved. It really matches the organic relaxed feel of the home and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”

At the end of this project, DNA of Design named the house “Unearthed” to fit with the wabi-sabi design philosophy that was incorporated into the interior design.

Wabi-sabi originates from Japan and focuses on authenticity, simplicity and embracing beauty in imperfection. It’s also about focusing on organic textures and tones.

Deb concludes: “The name and earthy interior style also fit well because the downstairs area of the home was quite literally built into the earth. We were still able to bring plenty of natural light in to keep the space light and bright.

“All in all, the home’s style is earthy and modern with muted tones. It’s a soft space made for relaxing and unwinding.”

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