A Lush Sydney Eco House Built Around a Living Courtyard

Daphna Tal and Cameron Rosen are a Sydney couple on a mission to change the way we think about interiors. When Homedit had a chance to visit their family home in Rose Bay, we jumped at a chance for a masterclass in sustainable building and green interior design. The family home centers on a striking double height interior courtyard, complete with a lush vertical garden. Taking a welcome respite from the intense Sydney heat amongst the cool dappled light and shaded ferns, Daphna shared the secrets of their successful eco house project.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

So what was the ‘design brief’ for the house?

The house had to be as environmental as possible. It had to be stylish but earthy and homely ie. liveable. Not a “you can’t touch this” house.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

To achieve its environmental aims, the building works with nature as much as possible. The orientation allows low sun to heat the space in winter. In summer, intense overhead sun is reflected and natural ventilation sets up a light cross breeze that cools the interior via louvred windows. The family worked with Pidcock Architecture and Sustainability and specified solar power, rainwater collection and greywater recycling.  Daphna’s husband works as a building project manager so was hands on with the construction and could make sure materials were chosen for their sustainable credentials.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rather than bringing everything in new, recycled materials, found objects and upcycled furniture create a warm and inviting atmosphere. This is a house made for relaxing in! Interior Designer Daphna’s approach aims to create healthy homes in the same way that her former profession helped individuals towards health. Even the small outdoor pool construction used recycled concrete.

My background is nutrition and herbal medicine. My way of thinking has been influenced by this. As I studied in my 20’s, I was also learning about the environment, and from there it grew. I also worked in the design industry from the age of 15, as my family runs a company called “Designer Rugs”

Two buildings at the north and south of the courtyard connect along a bright hallway. The spacious open plan kitchen living area features streamlined white push-close cupboards and a generous kitchen island.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

The timber on the island is recycled timber. The tiles on the splashback are recycled glass. All floor tiles come from an Italian company with 3rd party certification, meaning they are environmentally and consciously made.  We chose LED bulbs for the pendant lights.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

A collection of cushion covers made from material off-cuts harmonize with the plush purple sofa.

The only new piece of furniture was our lounge. I made sure that I knew where the fabric was from, the timber and the foam. It’s important to ask questions when you purchase any product. As far as the rest, some we have had for a long time, some were found on the side of the road, in auction houses or bought on travels.

Daphna’s talent lies in combining just the right number of elements with their own history and personality to create harmonious and intriguing corners. The evidence of wear and tear add a beautiful richness and narrative that make visitors feel comfortable and at home.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

The courtyard timbers are recycled hardwood and the narrative continues as you climb the stairs.

The timber on the stairs formed the columns in the courtyard in 1923 from an old bridge in Coffs Harbour designed by Percy Allen. The basket under the steps is from India and was used as a serving basket.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Indian style fabrics and the aspect towards the green courtyard help the bedroom to feel like a meditative space. Mindfulness towards ecology, embodied by the Permaculture philosophy is a big influence on this family.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Permaculture was very well considered and was very much a part of the design. We wanted the majority of our gardens to be edible, so that we would be able to sustain some of our living through our gardens. We are lucky to have a watering system which helps and the kids help by eating from the citrus trees and helping with the vegetable patch.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

One of Daphna’s favourite areas is the courtyard and it’s easy to see why, we asked how easy it would be to create this space at home.

Our vertical garden required a builder due to its height and special green wall cells purchased from Elmich.

Rose Bay Eco House, SydneyView in gallery

Apart from creating this beautiful space, we were impressed by Daphna’s drive to raise awareness of how to make green and healthy interiors.

I am holding the 3rd International Green Interior Awards. This is a global award created to honor those architects, designers and companies who are being conscious and ethical whilst creating amazing spaces and products. It was also created to influence others to do the same. I want these awards to become influential because building interiors creates so much waste in the world. Focusing on the global influence of these awards will mean less waste and more positive impacts within the industry and beyond.