Tree house on the Merri
‘I personally find clutter quite stressful, so I am naturally drawn to creating a space that is simple and natural’, says homeowner Cindy about her ideal home environment. Ahhhh…if only we could all keep our homes and minds free of clutter.
Today’s home is a good example of simple living. Owners Cindy and Sharn grew up near Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges. They always hoped they could one day create a family home close to nature for their own children. Two years ago they were fortunate enough to realise this dream when they built this modern home on the leafy banks of Merri Creek in Northcote.
Cindy is a busy mum of two and is currently studying Nutritional Medicine. Sharn is the Director at RJ Garage Doors. Together they live here with their seven-year-old son Hunter and five-year-old daughter Raven.
The calm, open living space overlooking Merri Creek. ‘The original design was for black timber floors and ceiling to create a cube-like space and draw attention to the view. However, I was worried about keeping it clean and also that it might look too masculine‘ says Cindy. The family see a myriad of birdlife through these windows. ‘We regularly see a family of tawny frogmouths. There are kingfishers, flame Robins and some kind of eagle that circles the sky above the creek too’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Merri Creek. The property is nestled into the slopes directly above the creek. The family likes to fish, look for turtle’s and take the kids on their kayak. ‘One morning we woke up to find a fox napping down there’, says Cindy. In the warmer months, it pays to be aware of tiger snakes in the tall bushland near the water. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Looking outside onto the deck. ‘I wanted some green to contrast with the wood of our deck. It was important to have something low maintenance. I didn’t want to waste space with messy pots’, says Cindy. The self watering vertical garden is from Living Holmes Design. The butterfly chair is from Angelucci 20th Century. The replica Erik Buch bar stools inside are from Matt Batt. ‘I would have loved original stools but our kids would have destroyed them! It took ages to decide. We wanted something subtle and comfortable with a low back and most importantly – kid friendly’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
The kitchen. Family health issues led to a passion for a better lifestyle and diet. The focus in this house is on whole food that is mostly organic. ‘We try to buy meat that is certified by Demeter, which is a certifying body for biodynamic farmers. We avoid processed food, artificial colours and flavours, preservatives and additives and we try to eat lots of fresh and local vegetables and fruits’ says Cindy. The bench top is polished concrete. Photo by Briony Skeen.
This is one of the family’s pet spiny leaf insects. At one stage they were called Optimus and Prime after the kids’ toy Transformers. They are now affectionately referred to as ‘The Critters’. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Lounge room. Cindy fills her glass dispenser with different coloured fruit to entice the kids to drink water. The family loves playing music on the turntable. The kids really enjoy performing and busting a move in the lounge room Favourite tunes include: Lorde – ‘Pure Heroine’, French chill out/lounge digital radio, Kruder and Dorfmeister – ‘The K&D Sessions’, Zhu, Daft Punk – ‘Empire of the Sun’, Roisin Murphy, Gabriel and Dresden, Florence and the Machine and ‘The Killers. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Some of Cindy’s favourite blogs include Mind Body Green, The Minimalists, I Quit Sugar, TED, Natural News, Chris Kresser (Paleo nutrition) and The Chalkboard Mag. Cindy is currently reading Gene Genius by Dr. Margaret Smith. It’s about understanding how your DNA and diet influence health. ‘The best book I read last year was The Martian by Andy Weir. I’m currently reading The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Master bedroom. Cindy bought the wallpaper called, ‘Woods’ online, from Cole and Son. The Himalayan salt lamp was a birthday gift from Cindy’s father-in-law. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Cindy’s husband Sharn rushes up the stairs to prepare for a work meeting. One of the hardest working people you’ll meet. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Five-year-old Raven’s bedroom overlooks the creek.’One of the prettiest times to look out this window is sunset, when there is a gold shimmer bouncing off the water and the light is warm’, says Cindy. The carpet in the bedrooms is actually made with cashmere goat hair from Tretford. It’s free from chemicals and toxins. Trundle bed and gold bunny from Lilly and Lolly in Albert Park. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Raven’s bedroom. ‘Raven’s into imaginative play. She loves brushing and saddling up horses. She often role-plays doctors and I find her soft toys with Band-aids, icepacks and eye patches. One of her favorite games is cafes, where she writes down a food order and then prepares it in her toy kitchen’, says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
I love how this family takes off their shoes upon entering the house. Not only does it help to keep the house clean but it means less noise and you always know where your shoes are! The flooring is made from engineered timber by Havwoods. Cindy just uses hot water to clean the floors. No soap or detergents required. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Hunter’s bedroom. ‘Hunter is into time travel (think Dr Who), building things, magic shows, looking at photos or doing acrobatics on his bed. He’s just mastered the handstand and cartwheel!’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Hunter’s bedroom details. ‘The turntable was a gift for my 30th birthday from some special high school girlfriends. It’s actually part of a set of decks. The other one is in the lounge room. I picked up the old phone from an op shop in Rosebud’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Cindy modified this Ikea table to create the perfect Lego workstation. The original glass on the top was replaced with Lego base plates. It has storage underneath and wheels, which is really handy if you don’t want to disassemble a precious masterpiece! Photo by Briony Skeen.
The carport is great for the kids and for storing sporting equipment and the family’s kayak. The kids have some gymnastic mats from Ikea and love doing acrobatics. They also roller skate/scoot/blade and Hunter loves to ride his BMX and perform BMX shows. ‘We regularly vacuum the fake grass and once a month we pressure hose it clean. So far it is holding up well’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
House exterior. The remote-controlled garage door was custom made by Sharn at RJ Garage Doors. Photo by Briony Skeen.
‘We were given this handmade meditation rug by a Tibetan monk and were extremely honoured to receive it. It’s the most inexpensive item in our home but the one we’re the most proud of’, says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
‘Sunset is spectacular down here. We also love going down after it has poured with rain and the creek has risen up and is flowing fast. We hear diverse bird life, the strumming of crickets and the buzzing of cicadas. Sometimes we even hear the occasional outdoor dance party!’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Cindy’s Green Matcha Tea Recipe. I actually tried this and it was really good.
- Add ½ teaspoon of green matcha powder to 1/3 cup of boiling water in a small saucepan
- Heat up 2/3 cup of your favorite milk [Cindy uses Coco Quench; a blend of rice and coconut milk]
- Add 1 teaspoon of your preferred sweetener [honey or rice malt syrup]
- Combine milk and matcha and whisk
‘I purchased my bamboo whisk from a foodie festival last year, but you can pick them up online or generally from the same places that sell good quality matcha’ says Cindy. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Wild blue flowers on the banks of the Merri. Photo by Briony Skeen.
Cindy and Sharn bought this land back in 2008 along with two other couples. They subdivided the property and commenced the long and frustrating four-year wait for their plans to be approved through council. Finally, after much anticipation, they started building this modern architecturally designed house and after nine months it became their family home. They have now all lived here for two years alongside close family. ‘We joke about it being like a commune, but its actually pretty special. All of the kids are like brothers and sisters and there is a very tight bond’ says Cindy.
The house has large living spaces, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study, a generous entertaining deck and a huge carport, which doubles as an outdoor activity area. The original plans included an underground car park, which would have freed up so much more space. This was knocked back at VCAT. Room 11 architects in conjunction with Zero Nine Development designed the house. Zero Nine Development is run jointly by Sharn, his brother and brother-in-law.
The couple are planning a rooftop garden in the future, with organic vegetables and herbs. The house was designed with this in mind. The study will also be renovated to include a work space for the kids’ homework activities. ‘Eventually, we will rip out the bluestone tiles in the downstairs bathroom, as they are too dark. We plan to replace them with all white Japanese Yohen tiles from Artedomus in Richmond’, says Cindy.
Cindy describes the interior as organised and minimal. Her mantra is, ‘Less is more. Keep only things of use or that you love.’ If she could change anything about the house, Cindy would love to have an appliance cupboard and a washing line! Oh and an Arne Jacobsen ‘Mayor’ sofa would really complete the loungeroom. One can dream! The family’s favourite space is the kitchen for its family atmosphere. ‘A meal on the deck or sitting in the butterfly chair and watching the sunset is pretty magical too’ says Cindy.
‘I love the way nature and inner city co-exist here; early morning bird calls and wildlife combine with the hustle and bustle of the trams and city life. This area has seriously good food, cafe culture and it’s very kid friendly’, says Cindy. As a family they love bike riding along Merri Creek and often take the kids to the skate park near Fitzroy Bowls. Both kids are right into their BMX bikes.
- Wild Things – A local organic grocery store in Fitzroy North. Inspiring food philosophy. They make the best green juice and dandelion lattes.
- Terra Madre – One stop organic shop. Great range and value for money.
- Luft – For gifts.
- Shook Iku – Raw foodie heaven and hard-to-find superfoods.
- CERES – For the farmers’ market.
- Big Dreams – For all things kids.
- Belmore Organic Meats – Biodynamic meat.
- Loafer Bread – An artisan bakery in North Fitzroy. Great coffee every time.
- LongPlay – Local bar with a small cinema!
- Munster Haus – For a vegetarian/vegan feast.
- Green Park Dining – Great coffee stop along the bike track where kids can enjoy the playground.