It was love at first sight, when Ema and Corey found a secluded block of land bordering a forest of pine trees with river views, perched on a hill in Currumbin Valley in Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland. “The block had an old post-war fibro shack that we called home for a long time, but it was always our plan to eventually build our dream home here,” recalls Ema. It took a good 15 years for their dream to become a reality.
Who lives here? Ema, creative director; husband Corey, software developer; their sons Noah, 15, and Henry, 13; and Toffee, an American Staffy.
Describe your style. Ema: “Somewhere between coastal and farm style with a modern element. I love combining natural textures and imperfect, handmade, artisan features.”
Favourite feature? “The stonewall fireplace with the glass windows and doors either side.”
What was your best decision? “Choosing our builder, he went above and beyond, and guided us so well.”
What makes a great family home? “Creating zones for adults and a separate zone for kids. It’s a great way to give them a little ownership.”
Happy to bide their time, the couple travelled and lived in London for a year with sons Noah, 15, and Henry, 13, who were just babies at the time, before moving back and making a plan. “The first step was saving, which took us five years,” explains Ema. “Because we were outgrowing the shoebox-sized shack, we became incredibly motivated to save for the new build, so we took on extra work, sacrificed holidays and lived with just the bare essentials for a while and were happy to, as we had a goal.”
Their vision was to create a cabin-style home, which sat quietly among the natural setting. While Ema admits her initial plans were more idealistic than realistic, their gracious builder Mark Green suggested a simpler design, requiring less engineering, which was far more feasible. “We were complete construction newbies, with a Pinterest board the size of Queensland and a budget the size of a postage stamp, yet with lots of input from Mark we were able to tweak the design without compromising form and function,” she explains.
DESIGN TIP: STONE FIREPLACE
It’s hard to beat the impact of soaring ceilings, yet when they’re matched with a 5.5m tall stacked stone fireplace, set among a wall of glazing, the effect is incredible. “A grand fireplace was ‘the’ must have,” says Ema of the splurge-worthy double-sided Cheminees Philippe wood fireplace, which you can peer through and see the pool.
Rather than a two-level home with a loft as originally planned, scaling back the design to a single-level layout kept the budget in check and allowed for their lengthy wish list, which included an abundance of glass, soaring raked ceilings, a stone-clad fireplace and a pool for the whole family to splash about in. “We were so thrilled to incorporate as much glass as possible, as being surrounded by nature, we didn’t want to miss any of it while indoors,” says Ema.
Inside, timber flooring from Elk Falls flow throughout the kitchen and living areas adding warmth, as do textural furnishings and select brass fixtures. During the eight-month build which was completed in early 2021, Ema sourced key furniture and Corey, with the help of a friend, made a floating timber TV unit and beautiful dining table which takes pride of place. Yet having waited so long to build the house of their dreams, the family are in no rush to fill it, preferring to take their time and add pieces that add layers of interest, rather than match perfectly.
With the budget stretched after the build, the couple took time to furnish their bedroom . “We just made do with a bed and nothing else for some time,” says Ema. I Love Linen sheets and cushions from Magnolia Lane are swapped out seasonally to refresh the palette. A Lounge Lovers chair is positioned to enjoy the outlook, while a console, also from Lounge Lovers, provides a spot to display vessels from Marloe Marloe and Hello Trader. A Bunnings floor lamp provides bedside illumination.
“The zones were designed around the moments we’d have together as a family,” says Ema.
Positioned off the back deck, overlooking bushland and a river, the pool is completely private and doubles as a water feature, which can be enjoyed from the living area. “We were inspired by the jaw-dropping hotels with infinity pools positioned on the edge of cliffs and wanted to recreate something similar,” says Ema.
The landscaping is also ever evolving, with plans to tame some of the wild overgrown areas, refine an alfresco area by the pool and hang a double swing from an old fig tree overlooking the river.
To give the cabin an organic feel with a modern edge, James Hardie Axon cladding painted in Dulux Colorbond Monument ensures it sits subtly among the trees, while the kids and parents wing enveloped in weatherboard painted in Dulux Lexicon Half visually softens the overall effect.
“I still get a feeling of ‘I can’t believe I live here,'” reflects Ema. “I love looking out into the dreamy forest scene only metres from my kitchen. I didn’t imagine it would look so beautiful through the lens of the three oversized glass sliding doors. It almost doesn’t look real.”
Builder: Mark Green, MCG Building & Supervision, @mcg_building
Joinery: Cuisine Kitchens, (07) 5564 8518, cuisinekitchens.com.au.