Meet the owners of Sunrise Studio

Josh Harris: I’ve been living in a house on this property – designed by architect Gabriel Ball – for about 10 years. When did you decide to commission an additional, separate studio for the site, and how did you get in touch with Bark Architects?

Simon Brown: I met Lindy and Steve when they opened their studio for the Sunshine Coast Open House in 2018, before COVID-19. We are very local – our house is close to their studio. We had a good, connected conversation, and then the following year, we looked at building our “tree house”, and went to see Lindy and Steve.

GH: Was it important to you to work with a local architect?

SB: That was, I think. Bark Architects know the area, and being close to the road, they know our terrain very well. We get the same wind. And we love their style.

JH: What was your brief about Lindy and Steve?

David Tun: The studio is a place where my daughter and son live independently, but close to us. With my grandson, I drew a little sketch of a house on a tree, with a flying fox and a ladder, and we said, “This is your brief.” Honestly, that was it! From then on, the only thing we were trying to do was mount it in the ground and not take over Gabriel Bull’s place [the Lewis House, 1983]. We were so quiet, we really wanted them to give us direction.

The compact studio space is increased by the generous deck between the trees.

Photo: Christopher Frederick Jones

JH: And did everything in this drawing reach the last house? Did you get your flying fox?

DT: Not yet, but we planned it! Basically, we were very happy with the first drawing. We worked on it and there was no need to uproot any trees, very few branches. We changed this, changed it, but really there were very few tweaks. We basically said, “Go for it.”

JH: Can you tell me about the renovation you have been doing on the property?

DT: When we started, the site was covered in Singapore daisies – I’m talking thousands of them. We didn’t want to poison them because I had domestic bees, so we pulled them by hand; It took us six months to get rid of them. The bonus was that the soil was beautiful underneath. We joined Landcare and got some advice from them. First of all, we placed 350 small trees – all indigenous, tube stock. And now we have some pretty cool stuff going on…there are koalas, wallabies, and all kinds of birds; The whole atmosphere changed. That’s the cool thing about doing something like this, you can see the wildlife coming back.

SB: The studio is almost invisible from our house now, thanks to all the plants we’ve put in.

JH: How is the balance between privacy and communication between the two homes? Do you see each other every day?

DT: Sometimes I don’t see my daughter for three or four days. Oftentimes, the only way we know it’s here is when toilet paper vanishes from the pantry, which she and our grandson often raid. We’ve also been known to raid her pantry for a bottle of red, so it goes both ways!

SB: She does really well with babysitting and that kind of thing, and if her family got bigger, David and I would happily swap houses – we could downsize and they could go up in size.

DT: And when we go away, they take care of the house, the pool and the animals.

JH: Did your daughter participate in the design process?

DT: I paid it worth a penny. She would say “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. But really we were all sitting with Steve and Liddy, whom we now consider good friends, and brainstorming with each other: “What should we do here? What can we change there?” Of course, we had only a small space to work: we couldn’t go To an area greater than 90 square meters due to council regulations.

John Heck: Was that a good restriction?

SB: I think it was a good thing. We wanted to keep the space small so that the studio blends in with the garden. And the deck wasn’t restricted by regulations so it’s a nice big deck.

JH: It’s like a treehouse, with that rooftop between the treetops.

SB: Yeah. At the beginning of the project, we planted two celery trees – trees in the tropical rainforest of Queensland – and they have already exceeded the height of the surface and climbed. So there are a lot of insects, and a lot of birds sitting on the railing.

DT: Green tree snakes.

GH: Was this your first time working with architects on a home?

SB: Yeah. We didn’t think we could afford one. It was interesting to follow the process and think, “Do we go this way, or do we buy something off the plan?” But a prefabricated house does not take into account the source of wind, sunlight and many other things. Lindy and Steve designed an amazing and very special little building. And each of the rooms seems to frame a landscape or a tree trunk, or the sun shines through them and lights up the back room. It’s beautiful. And we used a lot of cheap materials to keep the price down, but they are just as great as the expensive products in the market.

DT: If we hadn’t used an architect, it would have cost us about the same. But we have what we wanted: something we love.

GH: Would you recommend working with an architect, even if you’re on a tight budget?

DT: I think so. In my view, architects see and plan a lot of things I haven’t seen. Steve would walk by and say to the builders, “This is not right, this is not right, this is not right” and I never saw him. As soon as he pointed it out, I could see the difference. In short, we were very happy with our architects.

SB: You can ask, “Would you do it again?” The answer is definitely yes.

For more coverage, read our Sunrise Studio by Bark Architects review.