Zana Wright, Skinners Shoot, NSW
Images by Amelia Fullarton
This beautiful home houses Zana Wright, her partner Sam and their baby daughter, Lumi. Zana grew up on a farm in the isolated high mountains of the New England, where she “grew a love of the Australian bush and of getting my hands dirty.” Having gone on to study architecture between Sydney, Berlin & Aarhus (Denmark), she says she has been “pretty much winging it ever since, working for myself designing, building and making.”
“I wanted to create a house which minimised its environmental footprint, made sense in relation to its ‘place’, and honoured its materials in their raw form. We hear so much about ‘food miles’ yet so little about ‘material miles’ when it comes to shaping our homes. So I investigated which natural materials were available in our surrounding area and allowed these to play a big role in generating the design. The house is largely built from earth, stone and Australian hardwood, all sourced from our local region.”
“The property belongs to my parents, and having lived their life as farmers, ‘the work is never done’! One project which keeps them busy is gradually planting out the cow paddocks with more native trees and shrubs to create habitat for koalas, birds and other animals. They are also working at planting natives all around the house so that it settles more into its landscape.”
“The house was a collaborative effort. It is on my parents property and I designed it for my parents to live in when they get older, with help from my friend and co-designer Alice Nivison (@freshprince.studio). Sustainably focused builders, Balanced Earth (@balanced.earth) did the main construction, then Sam, my dad and I finished it off by together building details like the kitchen, bathroom, built-in furniture and the earthen floor.”
“One challenge was allowing the appearance of the building to be driven by the materials we had around us, rather than by an aesthetic intention or ‘look’. The walls are beige because that is the colour of the sandy soil here; the earthen floor is a pinky brown because that was the colour of the clay we dug from the site itself; the timber palate was limited to what grows between northeast NSW and southeast Queensland, and so on…I thought this constraint might limit the design, but I actually found it simplified decisions and allowed the building to become an extension of its environment.”
“Many of the pieces in the house were made by Sam, whipped up in the spur of the moment to respond to an immediate need (that’s the beauty of sharing your life with a builder!). My favourite creation he made is the low dining table which was crafted using only traditional joints & no screws or glue, from a beautiful slab of local Silky Oak.”
“The armchair and metal outdoor chairs came from our friend Rosie Browne’s vintage shop here in Byron called Hawker (@iamhawker). The armchair is a mid-century Brazilian design by Jean Gillon, & we bought it especially for me to breastfeed in, just before Lumi was born!”
“The house itself is built almost entirely from local natural materials, & is designed around passive-solar principles which allow it to stay cool in summer & warm in winter without needing air conditioners or heaters. It runs largely on solar power, solar hot water and rainwater from our tank. We also have a vegetable garden right next to our kitchen where we grow some of our food, & many fruit trees scattered across the property. Our food waste goes to our compost or worm farm, which in turn feeds our garden, along with manure from the cattle which run on the property.”
The house itself is built almost entirely from local natural materials, & is designed around passive-solar principles which allow it to stay cool in summer & warm in winter without needing air conditioners or heaters.
“The ‘Z’ shaped chair and bedside table were made from Queensland Maple by our incredibly skilled German joiner friend, Christian.”
“I love the earthen floor in the bedroom, which we made by hand from clay we dug from the site mixed with locally grown sugarcane mulch, local sand and lime. It was a real experiment as none of us had any experience, but it feels wonderful underfoot, similar to a concrete slab but subtle, more soft and spongy. I love knowing that there is nothing breaking the connection between my feet & the earth below (aside from a 1mm thick vapour barrier layer!).
I love the earthen floor in the bedroom, which we made by hand from clay we dug from the site mixed with locally grown sugarcane mulch, local sand and lime. It was a real experiment as none of us had any experience, but it feels wonderful underfoot.
“I also love the copper entry door handles & bathroom drawer handles. These were handcrafted by our dear friend & metal-worker, Adi (@k.r.u.r.a), using offcuts of plumbing pipes used in the house.”
“I am looking forward to taking everything we have learned from the process of creating this house, & building our own home on the little bush block we recently bought. I look forward to little Lumi being able to play with the mud and get involved (if she wants to), just as two-year-old-me helped my parents build the mud brick house I grew up in!”
“Having spent my whole life feeling like I needed to be productive, proactive & ambitious, recently having a baby means I am now learning about how to just ‘be’. I am loving learning how to exist in the world as a more feminine, intuitive, emotional being, which has become illuminated through motherhood.”