Clare Hopkins is opening her home for Sustainable House Day on September 4.
Clare Hopkins is opening her home for Sustainable House Day on September 4. Marc Stapelberg

'Small is beautiful': Eco home owners open their doors

SMALL home, big innovation.

It's the ethos of Northern Rivers properties that will be featured on Sustainable House Day in September.

Artist and interior designer Clare Hopkins will be among those to open their homes on the day.

While the natural world is often bending to the will of our built environment, her Bangalow home has done the opposite.

Not only was it built to make space for a 150-year-old fig tree on the block; it's as if the two structures were built to co-exist.

Ms Hopkins designed and built her home to allow room for the fig tree that was there long before, and in her mind will be there long after, her house.

The tree's also become home to a lush, beautiful garden that builds on the home's seamless connection with the natural environment.

"It's very important for me to feel connected to nature,” Ms Hopkins said.

While a fig in Lennox Head was this month felled as a result of poor planning, Ms Hopkins adapted her home plans to work with the tree.

Between the passive cooling this tree provides, her solar panels and clever greywater systems, it's a package of big ideas in a small footprint.

While the average new Australian freestanding home is 231 square metres, according to 2016 ABS data, this Bangalow home is just 162 square metres, 40 of which is a spacious deck overlooking a lush garden, of which the fig is the feature.

Ms Hopkins hoped to be able to share the functionality of her small home, with its clever use of multi-purpose space and big focus on outdoor living, with those who visit the home.

"I think we could all live in smaller houses,” she said.

"I just think that we can all make changes to the way we live.

"They're so much cheaper, more cost effective.

"A lot of clients live in these huge homes.  

"Small is beautiful.”

The home is energy-smart, too: is uses just two to three kilowatts a day, although there's a 3.5kW solar system on the roof.

And while the Lennox Head tree has suffered a sad fate, her home is built on piers that can adapt to the changing environment if the need arises.

"When I moved here I really fell in love with the tree, that was the big drawcard for me,” she said.

Other properties on show include a Possum Magic home at Possum Creek and a repurposed 80-year-old farm shed in Mullumbimby.

The properties will be open 10am-4pm on Sunday, September 16.

Entry to the Bangalow home is by gold coin donation, proceeds will go to the Australian Youth Orchestra.

For more details visit

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