Building a new house is often a challenging exercise for many people; How big should it be? What style? What budget? For someone whose job it is to design buildings for other people, the task of creating a new home for themselves is simultaneously less and more daunting. 

While the designer has the advantage of years of experience and is across design theories and trends, they also have a lifetime of ideas they want to implement, all of which can not make the cut.

In 2019, my wife Amanda and I decided to build a new house. We had subdivided a corner block in an older area of Bundaberg. As with all projects, constraints can be positives as they help to focus the design. 

Early on we established that we didn’t want a large house. I’m a strong believer that smaller, smarter homes are the way forward to ensure a sustainable future. In reality, a small footprint was inevitable – a sewer line running through the property meant we had a total of 10m by 12m available to build on. We settled on a barn-style structure, with living areas on the ground floor and loft-style bedrooms within the gable. The total internal floor area was pared down to 110 square meters.

Despite the compact dimensions, we didn’t sacrifice anything. The limitation on floor area became a welcome design challenge. Rather than trying to accommodate all possibilities, each space was crafted around how we live, our furniture, how we use different rooms and our personal idiosyncrasies.

Part of this personal mark on the house is that there is no air conditioning. Nor are there insect screens. We accepted that we might be sharing our home with a few bugs, and that it might be slightly warmer or cooler than optimal at times. Careful consideration was taken to maximise natural ventilation and passive solar, and so far the house has out-performed expectations from a climatic comfort standpoint, being consistently warm in Winter and rarely uncomfortable in Summer.

Even the colour scheme was employed to introduce rigor in the design. The simple white and pink palette required that I work around available products – there was only one pink laminate to choose from, so that determined the paint colour, floor epoxy and even the tile grout in order to maintain consistency throughout. We had to move in without floor coverings upstairs, as our non-standard pink Marmoleum from Europe was delayed, but this was a small price to pay for something that is a unique statement and makes us happy.

The colour scheme did however lead to one of the few disagreements Amanda and I had over the whole design and construct process – and not because of the colours themselves. We decided that the house should be named in reference to its distinctive hue, however my original suggestion got vetoed. Thus what I’d been calling ‘Iced-VoVo’ is now ‘Coconut Ice’. 

Architect Tomas O’Malley designs buildings that reflect Central Queensland’s climate and lifestyle.