Luxurious prefab’s coastal connection

Courtyard House, Image by Clinton Weaver

This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ magazine and online on February 28, 2021. Image courtesy of FABPREFAB/Clinton Weaver.

Courtyard House is a striking off-grid prefabricated house set on a leafy, private 60-acre block not too far out of the town of Hawks Nest on the Mid-North Coast. 

The luxurious house, which currently operates as an Airbnb, was designed by Sydney-based architectural practiceCHROFI and constructed by prefabricated and modular residential building company FABPREFAB.

“Courtyard House was installed in the second half of 2019,” explains Tony Olding, founder of FABPREFAB.  

“It consists of four prefabricated modules that we transported in and connected on site.”

Divided into two parallel wings: one side of the house is dedicated to sleeping, the other is the living space. It has two cosy bedrooms, a study (or third room), a big kitchen, dining and living area, a courtyard and a verandah that can be converted into an outdoor room.  

Thoughtful design features are present throughout the home. The courtyard, for example, sits at the centre of the house. A large sliding screen, located at its rear, can be closed to make it an intimate space away from the elements or opened up to connect it with the sprawling landscape beyond. 

Sustainability was a fundamental part of the design and fabrication of the house, which is completely off-grid through the use of solar power and rainwater. Passive design was also used to encourage ventilation and natural heating and cooling of the property.

While at 96-square-metres in size, Courtyard House is compact, the open plan design, the abundance of natural light and the seamless flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces make it feel much more spacious. 

The interior of Courtyard House is decorated in a calming colour palette of greys, whites, earthy yellows, blues and wood tones. Complementing the idyllic coastal bush environment in which it sits. 

The expansive acreage surrounding Courtyard House offers guests the ability to feel ‘away from it all’, while being only minutes from Hawks Nest, nearby beaches, and the neighbouring town of Tea Gardens.  

Courtyard House is a beautiful, functional and stylish space in a private, natural setting that encourages disconnection and relaxation.

“We’ve only just recently made it available for short-term accommodation on Airbnb this summer,” says Olding.

He and his family also use the property as an occasional holiday home. “We stayed there over the Christmas after it was built.”

“I think it’s one of the best locations on the coast geographically,” he says on why they chose Hawks Nest to base the dwelling. 

“It’s a great site. It just ticked all the boxes.” 

“It’s got amazing natural beauty and wildlife and still has that village feel there. All of this within close proximity to both Newcastle and Sydney, which are an hour and two-and-half hours away, respectively.”

Olding also has a personal long-standing connection to the area. “We know it very well. My parents had their honeymoon in Tea Gardens, about 60 or so years ago.”

Additionally, Courtyard House is used as a showcase for prospective purchasers of the model.

The prefabricated house – which FABPREFAB describes as a “modern interpretation of the traditional Australian rural home” – is a prototype, which will eventually be made at the company’s production facility in Somersby on the Central Coast.

“It’s a really clever design and a high-quality build,” says Olding. 

“It has a great connection between the indoors and outdoors. It has a relatively small footprint – it’s very deceiving.  This adds to the sustainable approach of the whole concept. Yet it still maintains generous internal spaces that are bright, comfortable and relaxing.”

Courtyard House has already received various industry accolades. It won the Energy Efficiency category at the 2020 Master Builders Association Awards, received two Commendations (‘New House Under 200 m2’ and ‘Sustainability’) at the 2020 Houses Awards and was shortlisted in the ‘Top nine best prefabs of 2020’ at last year’s Dwell Awards.

The response from guests has also been encouraging.

“It’s all been very positive,” says Olding of the feedback to date.

“People are quite surprised. They really appreciate the thoughtful design and how comfortable and private it is. Many of them have also said that Courtyard House is a great place to just unwind and disconnect.”