On building a dream home with Al + Imo

On building a dream home with Al + Imo

Al and Imo are life and business partners making custom furniture on the Surf Coast in Victoria. The pair made their sea change from Melbourne in 2016 and have never looked back. Al is a carpenter by trade and Imo, a designer and digital wizz, and together the yin and yang couple have mindfully built their dream life and business. They’ve become known for their beautiful beds, made from locally-sourced Australian hardwood and hand crafted with quality and function at the forefront.

Now, with a toddler, a newborn and a fur baby in tow, they’ve embarked on their biggest project yet… building their dream home! 

We chatted to Imo about the process of building what they’ve named the Good Day House, the ups and downs of the process, and the key decisions around design, materiality and, of course, sustainability. Managing a small business, taking care of a tiny human, adding a pregnancy to the mix, and all the while tackling a first home build is no mean feat! We’re in awe of what this pair has achieved!

Congrats on recently moving into the Good Day House! For those who haven't followed along, tell us a little bit about the project?

For as long as we can remember we've dreamt about building our own home. At the end of 2020 we found a block of land and started the design and build process. Two years, a global pandemic and two babies later we've moved into our beautiful home. The Good Day House is a modern, all-electric, 7.5-star, energy-efficient family home and is situated in the beautiful seaside town of Torquay, about 5 minutes from the iconic Bells Beach.

The kitchen (left) and the bathroom (right)The bathroom at the Good Day House

The kitchen and the bathroom

What was the design process like?

In close collaboration with Sherriff Constructions, a trusted local designer-builder, we spent a long time crafting a house design that perfectly suits our growing family and lifestyle. The unique shape of the block, wide at the front and narrow at the back, demanded expert guidance to ensure optimal use of space and sunlight orientation. Thanks to their professional design team's expertise, we now have a floorplan that maximises both aspects.

As I jot down these words the sun's rays flood through my window. It's a chilly 15 degrees outside, but inside a cosy 23-degrees that allows us to walk around comfortably in t-shirts.

The process of working with the design team was an absolute joy. Both Al and I had a clear vision of what we wanted, and our builder was incredibly receptive to collaborating with us.

We assumed full control of interior design, carpentry, and joinery during the build which meant we were able to infuse our personal touch into every corner of our home. Capturing the journey on camera, we're excited to share our experience with the world through an upcoming YouTube series (coming soon!).
Al on the tools (left) and the finished product (right)Al on the tools (left) and the finished product (right)
Al on the tools and the finished product

What are some of the key materials you chose and why? How did you choose materials to limit your impact on the environment?

There's no denying our deep love for timber, so when we set out to design our dream home, we knew from the very start that timber would play a central role. We love its warmth and timeless character and our skills in working with and maintaining it made the choice even more obvious.

During the early stages of our construction, we were introduced to a really great product called TouchWood by Britton Timbers. They are moisture-resistant MDF tongue and groove panels with a timber veneer face, creating the illusion of solid timber lining boards. They come in 1200mm wide sheets and can extend up to 3.6m in length, allowing us to cover more surface area efficiently and sustainably compared to solid hardwood alternatives. Britton Timbers sources all its Tasmanian timber responsibly from the PEFC-certified temperate forests of the north-west region of the state.

In our pursuit of an eco-conscious and energy-efficient home, we've embraced an all-electric approach and have made provisions to incorporate solar power and a battery system. Additionally, we've taken the initiative to implement a water tank in the backyard to collect and utilise greywater.

We went overboard with home insulation, our ceilings, external and internal walls are all insulated using Earthwool which is made from 80% recycled glass. Having never lived in a well-insulated home before, we’re so shocked (and stoked) about how warm and quiet it is! Highly suggest to anyone building or renovating to invest in insulation upgrades while you have the opportunity.

All of our paint is from Tint Paint, which is certified 99.9% VOC-free and doesn't include animal by-products. They also plant a tree for every can of paint they sell which is great.

We enlisted the expertise of a local landscape architect, Simon Taylor, who has skillfully designed a coastal-inspired, low-maintenance garden using native plants, which we’re really excited to see come to life.

Imo painting (left) and Al installing the TouchWood walling (right)Imo painting (left) and Al installing the TouchWood walling (right)
Imo painting and Al installing the TouchWood walling

What were some key challenges in taking your idea to fruition?

Time and money of course! Anyone who’s built / renovated over the past few years would know there’s been huge delays in construction, trades and materials. Some things took much longer than we expected and prices sky-rocketed. To help keep costs down we jumped on the tools and have done a lot of the work ourselves.

Imo and Al standing in the frame of their future homeImo and Al standing in the frame of their future home

How did you hold space for Al + Imo (the business) while you had such a major life project cooking (not to mention bubba #2 on the way)?

No denying it was a juggle, by the end we were burnt-out and so tired! The day I went into labour was the first day that Al and I actually relaxed in the house together... which sounds terrible when I say it out loud – toddlers don’t allow much time to chill! 

Keeping the business running while also building the house has been a challenge. We did plenty of late nights and weekends, but the day we were able to photograph a bed in our beautiful home made all of the hard work worth it. I think if you want to achieve big things you have to have those busy seasons.

Post-build and pre-move (left) and a Seljak Pinot blanket cosying up the living space (right)Post-build and pre-move (left) and a Seljak Pinot blanket cosying up the living space (right)

Post-build and pre-move and a Seljak Pinot blanket cosying up the living space 

What's your number one piece of advice for those embarking on a build?

Find a great builder / designer / architect that understands you, your needs, vision and budget. Make sure to shop around and pick professionals that are easy to work with who communicate well. You’re going to be spending a lot of time and money with them so you want to make sure it’s a good fit. We’ve heard horror stories of people building and feel so grateful that we were guided by our experts and had a really great experience.

Also, get ready to make a lot of decisions... and when you’re faced with the decision to play it safe or go bold... go bold!

Oh, and maybe don’t move house at 37 weeks pregnant!

A signature Al + Imo bed – the Slim Bed – in the Good Day House

A signature Al + Imo bed – the Slim Bed – in the Good Day House

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