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Our castle

August 14, 2010

Last night I watched Grand Designs, a British program which follows the progress of people building their dream homes. This episode followed a family who bought an old ruined castle which was virtually a pile of mossy rubble and over several years and several hundreds of thousands of pounds, restored it back into a castle. The build went way over budget and they ended up with a huge mortgage which they managed to pay by turning 9 rooms of the castle into guest accomodation. Living in a castle was the husband’s boyhood dream and for all the pain, frustration and money, every time he visited the building in progress, his dream was revitalised and he fell in love with his castle all over again. Despite everything they succeeded but the final message of the program was that the challenge didn’t finish with completing the build as they had had to compromise their lives by working really hard to meet the mortgage payments.

Our own castle was made possible by the discovery of two old army buildings for sale from the old Wacol army base near Ipswich.

We purchased these two lovely old weatherboard storehouses for $5000 for the pair and had them transported to the Ecovillage on two trucks with a police escort. We had faced many many challenges leading up to their delivery and there was many a time when we were on the verge of giving up. I will never forget the thrill and sheer delight when these buildings arrived at 3am and were delivered to our block.

Once in position, it was a long path ahead to turn these two old shells into a liveable home.

The larger building on the left, we called the Living Pavillion and the smaller one on the right, the Sleeping Pavillion. Then we joined them together with an entrance.

Over time, a home gradually emerged thanks to the help of many willing and generous friends and future neighbours.

During the build, I was working full time plus a weekend job and Kosuke was working 6 or 7 nights a week and between us, we took care of Taiji who was still a toddler.

Taiji grew out of babyhood into childhood walking gang planks, climbing ladders and helping us paint.

The Living Pavillion had no floor, so we put in a suspended concrete slab. From a shell….

… to a home. Our house isn’t fancy and it isn’t a show home but we love it. It’s a long cherished dream come true and it’s our castle.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. christina houen permalink
    August 14, 2010 11:50 pm

    I watched that program too and was enthralled by it. I couldn’t believe how determined they were to overcome such obstacles as the heritage/conservation rules, the collapsed stone wall, paying stone masons 2000 pounds a week before they even had the green light from heritage to go ahead, borrowing more money, ending up with a huge mortgage, and then, faced with losing their dream, turning it into a B and B. And what a B and B! It’s my dream to go there, and from the website, it starts at 155 pounds a night. But I was astonished by the film of the incredibly beautiful interior architecture, and how discreetly and tastefully they’ve furnished it. Have a look at the story, at

    To your humbler abode, it too is a grand design, and is a saga of vision, determination and heroic effort, dealing with similar challenges: not crumbling stone walls, but architectural challenges, regulations, sourcing materials, compromising between modern standards of building, sanitation, etc. and eco-standards of sustainable energy design and your budget, all within the rigid codes of the eco-village ….
    And through it all, you have persisted, worked quietly away inside and between all the codes that regulate your design, sourcing recycled materials, putting all your spare hours into completing corners of the dwelling. Congratulations to you and all who have supported you!

  2. Elisabeth permalink
    August 15, 2010 12:16 am

    What wonderful ingenuity and determination. You underestimate the beauty of your home. I think it’s as good as any in Vogue living.

  3. August 15, 2010 10:40 am

    i love grand designs, and i think your home would make a worthy program. i watched an episode with a straw and mud brick home built onto a cow shed in a field in france. the host was pretty sceptical that it would be “beautiful” and was truly amazed when it was. harvey likes to watch this sometimes too.

  4. August 20, 2010 7:14 am

    Christina, Elisabeth and Penny, thank you for your comments. We are proud of what we have achieved here. There is so much more to our story and what a challenge it has been. For example, it took us a year just to get finance. After many rejections and with our first child’s birth imminent, I had to surrender and said to the child in my womb: “we are trying to do this for you – so you can have the childhood we envision for you. We’ve done everything we can and haven’t succeeded so now it’s up to you. If you want to grow up in the ecovillage then you have to make it happen”. Shortly after that, our finance was approved thanks to a lateral thinking manager of a credit union, we signed the papers for the loan on the Monday and I went into labour on Tuesday! There are many more incidents like this along the way and we’ve always found a way or been helped through. I think it’s about knowing what you really want and for us, there was never any doubt that this is where we wanted to be. So there is a lot of pride, a lot of joy and a lot of love here in our humble little castle.

  5. August 27, 2010 5:21 pm

    Filippa, What an interesting story. The house looks fantastic – beautiful inside and out.

  6. August 27, 2010 7:58 pm

    Thanks Sam – how lovely to see you here! x

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