To be quite honest, I thought Sophie had gone completely mad when she told us the location of the land she’d bought to build her dream home. Aaah, where? Doesn’t she know our ‘T minus 5 minutes’ drive’ rule to get coffee? Where’s the closest sushi joint?  

It wasn’t until our first site visit, 700 kilometres from the pristine floors of my shoe-free home and up to my knees in mud on her building site, that I really understood her vision. Tucked away in a semi-rural location in Northern New South Wales, this block had never been built on before and is totally surrounded by lush, green rainforest, full of wildlife.

Then and there, it all made sense why Soph and her hubby fell in love with this piece of land to build their #mediterraneanfarmhouse. And why they were so inspired to minimise the impact of the build on the surrounding environment. #stepawayfromthegrid

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Cover the BASIX

If you’ve ever built or renovated in Australia, you’ll know that you have to fulfil certain environmental requirements as part of your Development Application, aka BASIX (The Building Sustainability Index). BASIX aims to reduce water and energy consumption and might require you to do things like tint your windows, install water tanks and choose certain types of building materials to comply with the index.

 The intention of BASIX is both to make residential buildings more environmentally sustainable and to provide a financial saving for the homeowner (albeit often a long-term one, after the added building costs up front!)

 Soph and her husband were keen to go above and beyond BASIX requirements to preserve this precious environment. Here of some of the things we did to help make their home more gentle on the environment:

We built a Foam Home

Yes foam! Not the kind you’d find at an Ibiza foam party (or more likely our kids’ baths these days!), this foam is a high-density polystyrene called NRG Greenboard. It’s lightweight, cost effective and suitable for use in BAL29 rated areas (that’s the fire rating of this block) because it contains fire (and vermin!) retardant. It also provides awesome insulation, which is always important to create an energy efficient home. 

We love it even more because it can be easily shaped, which we did to create the enviable arches that are integral to the design of this #mediterraneanfarmhouse #curvesarebackbaby

Then it’s rendered for a seamless finish.

Green Glass

Northern NSW is known for its warm summers, but I can vouch that it can get pretty cool over the winter months – we’ve been on-site when it’s raining cats and dogs! 

Controlling the temperature in any renovation is a huge part of how you’re going to feel in the home and we think it’s a really important to invest in the right materials to make sure your family stays cool in summer and snug in winter. Remember, your home should feel as good as it looks!

So many tall, curved glass doors mean SO much glass, which is why Viridian ComfortPlus glass was a winner throughout this home. ComfortPlus is laminated glass which provides superior insulation to maintain the ideal temperature, whatever the season. Coupled with the Luxaflex Duette Blinds in the bedrooms, we’ve got this window insulation situation fully covered #punintended


A Heater-less House!

Speaking of temperature… the Soph is so confident that their foam home is so well insulated, they’ve shunned a central heating system altogether! #controversial  

Instead, they installed the Mac Daddy of gas fireplaces, a huge double-sided Lopi unit ,which sits between the main open-plan living area and the media room. This heats the downstairs area beautifully and the flue runs up through the walk-in-robe of the master bedroom to radiate heat upstairs.

Imagine how much they’ll save each winter without an electric heating bill!


No Air-Con? No Way!

Yes way! Call them nuts, but the Bells have shunned air-con altogether in this build. Lucky we’re big fans of ceiling fans! 

In addition to fans, the orientation of the house on the block, the natural shade from the rainforest and the superior insulation are all going to help this home stay cool as a cucumber, come summertime.

A Solar System

When you’re a sun-loving couple it only makes sense that your home should worship the sun too. The big flat roof is covered in solar panels to attract the glorious rays and the power generated is used to offset any power used in the house. 

solar system

Water Works

We installed an Envirocycle system which collects wastewater from the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry and treats it in an underground tank. It’s then used to spray on the garden for irrigation.

Even the pool is doing its bit to respect the surroundings! It’s equipped with Enviroswim technology which uses electronic oxidising, ionisation and ultrasonics, instead of chlorine, to sanitise the pool. Because it’s far more effective at killing bacteria than chlorine, it means less filtration is required which in turn means less energy used.


I think that’s quite an impressive list of little steps we’ve taken in this build to help preserve our planet! And, if you ask Sophie, one of her proudest achievements in the whole project is the fact that we managed to avoid knocking down a single tree to get this baby built - in the middle of a rainforest! #treehuggersunite #dreamgreenteam

white house