Andrew and Anna Swain bought an old weatherboard Queenslander in Brunswick Heads (about 15 minutes north of Byron Bay) three years ago, with plans to build a new house in the backyard. 

The couple and their children chose a spot among the site’s beautiful, old trees, and set out to fulfil a specific vision. ‘We had dreamed of building a new home which was like a 100-year-old Greek villa,’ says Anna.

It is incredibly difficult to build a new house that appears legitimately old, but Anna and Andrew have achieved the near impossible. Their secret – using almost entirely recycled materials, and cutting zero corners. It also helps that Andrew is a builder!

One of the project’s biggest wins came when finding 18 sets of matching Greek-esque windows in two different salvage yards within 15 kilometres.

Other reclaimed materials incorporated into the build are old timber ceiling beams, and reclaimed Baltic pine boards for the floors, complemented by antique tiles from Jatana Interiors, and limestone crazy paving outdoors.  ‘We encouraged unevenness and unfinished timbers to add to the old soul look of the new house, much to the frustration of our usually meticulous building team!’ says Anna. 

The furniture and decor has similarly been sourced from far and wide, including a rug found by a friend in a skip outside the Turkish consulate office in Sydney many moons ago!

A textured lime render has also applied to the walls, emitting a natural glow throughout the day. ‘We built double, thick block walls to create deep window sills to mimic a true European feel,’ Anna says. 

The family have nicknamed the property ‘Hydra’ after their favourite Greek Island, where the property would truly look at home. 

It’s only February, but we have a feeling this might be one of our favourite homes of 2021! 

Turkish butchers table from Fossil Vintage. Handmade, glazed Moroccan tiles from Jatana Interiors. An old armoire is used as the pantry. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

‘Our clever carpenter built the recycled timber drawers with black iron The Society Inc drawer pulls, making the kitchen drawers look like another piece of antique furniture,’ says Anna. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Anna in the kitchen! Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

A cosy lounge room corner, used year-round. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Vintage print from a local Brunswick shop. Lamp from The New Collector. Matte black ceramic balloon vase made by Anna’s friend and artist Romy Bennie. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Dark, reclaimed, rough, hardwood beams line the lounge room ceiling. Deep window sills and old casement windows reflect the simple architecture of old Greek Island homes. Tigmi Trading rug. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

The old piano has been passed down through Anna’s family and is still in daily use. Paris-inspired iron and glass skylight above. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Pressed metal ceiling from Clem’s Cargo. Old pine floors and a wonderful set of French doors lead into the main bedroom. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

‘An old tub, fancy chandelier, garage sale mirror, French doors, and white painted floors make the bathroom a favourite,’ says Anna. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

French schoolhouse lamp. Artwork by Annan’s old friend – Blue Mountains artist Andrew Ireland. Old rug found by a friend in a skip outside the Turkish consulate’s office in Sydney many moons ago! Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

‘The Baltic pine floorboards creak loudly as you walk, making the bedroom feel and sound like the olden days,’ says Anna. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

An old brass milk separator from Heath’s Old Wares serves as the bedside lamp shade. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

An arch-shaped, glass-less window looks out from the main bedroom to a mirrored arch opposite, casting an arched-shaped sunlight patch on the lounge room below in the late afternoon. Vintage rose painting from Re Sould in Brunswick Heads. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

More treasures in another bedroom. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Outside roof terrace with Jatana Interiors tiles, iron and glass greenhouse-style skylight, and old weatherboard laundry. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Our shady courtyard with a French limestone fountain from Elements I Love, and old timber French doors create a lovely flow from inside to out. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Old bifold Queenslander windows open to the outdoor entertaining area. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Eucalyptus poles create dappled light and shade on the outdoor marble table by the pool for year-round alfresco dining and living. Reclaimed unfinished fascia boards make for a great rustic deck. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Limestone crazy paving around the old poinciana tree. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

Andrew and Anna! ‘Our favourite green shutters found years ago in a local antique shop have featured in all our houses over the past 20 years and look perfect facing the lane and make grand statement at the front of the house,’ says Anna. Photo – Jessie Prince for The Design Files. Styling by Louella Boîtel-Gill.

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