Recently, we were lucky enough to interview owner and designer Sophie Lord about her AirBnB build Aframe Kangaroo Valley. We had been following along with Sophie’s journey @aframekangaroovalley as she along with her architect and designer husband Ben have designed and built this beautiful A-frame AirBnB in Kangaroo Valley, NSW. We admire her ability to practice sustainability and use salvaged or recycled materials to create a beautifully unique and personal home. She has an eye for detail and has truly created a space for visitors to slow down, connect with nature and retreat from their everyday lives.
SHOP THE LOOK
Tripolina chair in khaki with teak frame | Millet broom with timber handle | Book - Still: The Slow Home by Natalie Walton | Salt and pepper mills in beechwood | Brass handle
Kangaroo Valley is such a peaceful and beautiful place. How did you discover it and what led you to the decision to build there?
Isn't it just! My partner Ben and I live on Sydney's Southern Beaches so all of our camping and surfing adventures primarily took place to the south, because, well, who wants to drive through Sydney traffic if you don't have to. Kangaroo Valley was always somewhere we stopped for a pie on the way home or retreated to for a few nights when work or life got overwhelming. It was less than two hours from Sydney but always felt so far away, so it became a real place of rest for us. We started casually looking for land or a heritage home to restore around 2016 and finally found the perfect spot in 2018. Ben is an architect and I'm a Creative Director by trade so teaming up and designing and building something from scratch, that was a true representation of us, was a natural progression.
"...that's the whole point of this little retreat of ours, you've got time on your hands to slow down and enjoy the process."
We have been following along with your design and build journey on Instagram, can you share with us what the experience was like for you and the biggest lessons you learnt while designing and building?
Looking back, the physical exhaustion that came from cleaning up this long since forgotten acerage (that had sat neglected since the 1960s) was the easy part. Ben and I spent two years living in a tent four days a week dismantling old chook sheds, clearing 300sqm of spreading bamboo and slowly filling skip bin after skip bin with rusty old tractor parts and kilometres of barbed wire. The emotional exhaustion that comes with building, the needing to make what felt like 100 micro decisions quickly on an almost daily basis, was the hardest part. And that's all before you throw in the fact we started building in the thick of a global pandemic whilst keeping three businesses up and running. The biggest lesson I personally learnt during this whole process was to listen to the experts by all means, but also to trust your gut and don't be afraid to fight for your vision, even if it means pushing your trades outside of their comfort zones. The things we are most happy with in our build are the things people tried to talk us out of along the way.
What does sustainable mean to you? And how did you apply these principles to your build?
For us, sustainability equals responsibility. It's impossible to make the sustainable choice all of the time (unless you have a bottomless pit of money, which we don't) so at the very least we strive to be responsible consumers, by always asking ourselves the three Ws...
1. Where was this made? Is it made overseas, and if so, is a locally manufactured option available?
2. What is this made of? Is it made of plastic or high in VOCs? Will it need replacing in under five years? Is there a more durable version on the market that would last decades, if not a lifetime?
3. Who made it? This question is really about cost. If it's a $50 kitchen tap, the likelihood the person who made it was paid a living wage is low.
By simply slowing down and doing some research before clicking 'add to cart' we learnt SO MUCH and were able to make so many more sustainable choices with our build from our CB Ideal raw brass tapware (that is made in Adelaide by a family owned business who even source their metals locally) to the structural timber we used to build the Aframe (we used re milled telegraph poles from recycled timber lumber yard Timber With Veins over LVLs aka: Laminated Veneer Lumber). I'm the first to admit we didn't get it right all the time. We had to use a lot of sikaflex glue to decrease movement in the timber. But then on the flip side our timber is a native Australian hardwood that is sustainably grown and harvested and we used a 100% natural oil called Livos instead of a chemical based sealant like Cutek that produces a high rate of VOCs. It's all about compromise really.
For anyone curious to learn more about VOCs aka volatile organic compounds or 'off gassing' please read this post here.
What were your favourite salvaged materials or pieces that were used in the project?
Oh gosh so many! Finding an alternative use for the building materials we already have in existence, rather than forever manufacturing something new has been the highlight of this project for us and our builders, Greensmith & Co, did a fantastic job of putting it all together. Our bathroom floor tiles are actually 150 year old Croatian terracotta roof tiles that have been salvaged and repurposed by a company called Gather Co. One tile even has a giant paw print in it which we like to think was a wolf or lynx roaming the brickworks a few centuries ago. Our fireplace hearth is made up of bricks repurposed from the path that leads to the 130 year old workers cottage that resides on our land. Our newel post on the stairs, our big feature beam that holds up the mezzanine, our decking posts and the 13 giant 7.5m tall A's that make up the heart and soul of our home are all salvaged and repurposed structural timbers or remilled telegraph poles and have so much character to them. Our Robert Gordon sink is even made from clay off cuts from the factory floor that would have otherwise gone in the bin and our 130 year old claw foot tub was salvaged from the back of a shed and restored by Sydney Antique Baths. Most of the furniture with the exception of a few key pieces has been picked up second hand from collectable stores over the years, all solid timber that's withstood the test of time.
Can you share with us your favourite feature of the AirBnB?
It's a tough call between the dreamy loft bedroom, the escarpment views and the woodfired hot tub, but I think I'll have to go with the tub! There's nothing instantaneous about it, it takes about three hours to light and maintain the fire to heat the water for a 30 minute soak, but that's the whole point of this little retreat of ours, you've got time on your hands to slow down and enjoy the process.
We love the wares you have included from Imprint House, what drew you to our store?
Ben has a lot of clients in Byron Bay and I've always eyed off this and that from the Imprint House room at Newrybar Merchants when we're in town, everything I picked up in that shop was just made so well and of quality materials that would last a lifetime. I was also drawn to your transparency in terms of a product's origins and if the wood used was sourced sustainably, it gave me confidence in my buying choices. From our beechwood salt and pepper grinders to our Pallares Solsona kitchen knives and Tripolina Chairs (in Khaki) we have no doubt the things we purchased will still be used and enjoyed for generations to come.
- Architect & Interior Design Ben Gray Architect
- Builder Greensmith & Co
- Images by Janneke Storm & Sophie Lord
Visit Aframe Kangaroo Valley