Paddock Hall – a rustic, timber clad cabin in a quiet corner of a converted macadamia farm – is one of a slew of properties that husband and wife team David and Jane Fewson have transformed by hand into architectural masterpieces over the years. Before buying the land that’s become home to Paddock Hall, Jane and David converted a four wheel drive fire truck into a mobile home so spectacular it was bought by the circus. Now though, they’ve settled in the Byron hinterland, on a stretch of land which they refer to as “Yalbarubah” – which translates to mean “place of healing” in the language of the local indigenous Bundjalung people. As well as Paddock Hall, Yalbarubah is home to a 1950’s inspired four bedroom converted farmhouse, and David’s working on a brutalist concrete bunker set to open in early 2022.
Over a cup of tea and a slice of beautifully sticky almond cake, we sat down with David and Jane to learn about the story behind the space.
We’ve been converting properties for the past thirty years or so, and after finishing one of our projects over in Fremantle, we decided it was time to take a year off. We rented out our house, converted a fire truck into a mobile home and set out across Australia, with plans to travel the world. As we were travelling, we realised that the lack of purpose wasn’t for us: we love creating, working on something together, and so we started our search for our happy place, our place of healing.
We’d travelled across Australia and pitched a tent at Mullumbimby showground, imagining we’d stay for a week. A week became two, then three. We loved everything about it here: the people, the hills, the aliveness of the land. It’s known as “big spirit country”, and we felt that immediately.
We looked at a lot of properties, and when we found this… it was a shambles. We’d seen a lot of lovely properties: in perfect condition with amazing views. This place was a wreck: a decrepit house on a neglected macadamia farm. Anyway, we bought it. We liked the fact that we couldn’t see anyone else, the idea of being out in the country with no other human structures in sight felt right for us, and we were ready for the challenge.
It didn’t take us long to realise we were onto something, that this was our place of healing, our Yalbarubah.
David designed and built Paddock Hall, with the help of Sean Campbell, a local carpenter. Our daughter Hannah helped with the interior fit out – together we sourced vintage furniture and handmade ceramics, and I painted and sanded the kitchen that David built from scratch. We knew what we wanted to create, and then we just did what we’re used to doing and made it happen.
The design of the farmhouse was really about maximising light and incorporating styles we love: European vintage, preloved antiques and the 1950’s farmhouse aesthetic. We’ve used a lot of glass because for us, being connected to nature and to the seasons is so important.
I wanted to build something that disappears, something that’s subversive and strange but that somehow works with the other buildings on the property. I knew I wanted the form and shapes to be organic, but I didn’t want to build it from mud. The concrete has that brutalist look, the curves keep it gentle and then the grass roof allows it to blend into the landscape.
We’re most proud of the journey, from when we arrived to where we’re at now… it’s such a complete contrast. The property seemed pretty hopeless when we arrived, but we always knew where we needed to go. We wanted to engineer our life and our surroundings, because we love being surrounded by nature and being close to our family. Now, spending our days building and gardening, and sitting down to lunch with our children and grandchildren, it feels like what we’ve created fits us perfectly.
When we first arrived here, on settlement day, we pulled into the garage and a butcher bird – who we’ve now got to know, and whose name is Jeff – flew in and landed on the door just as I opened it. He puffed out his chest and sang this amazing song, it was like a welcome song from nature. It feels right, being here, it feels like we’ve come to the right place.
You can book your stay at Paddock Hall via Airbnb, and follow them on Instagram @paddock_hall. If you’re keen to learn more about Jane and David’s converted farmhouse, you can read their story on The Design Files here, and stay up do date with the progress on David’s new project via the One Oh Seven R Instagram page @oneohseven_r
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