Grand Designs Australia

Grand Designs Australia Episode 2 Web Chat Transcript


We spoke to Dom and Sue, homeowners of the Very Small House in Surry Hills from episode 2 of Grand Designs Australia, after the show. Check out what they had to say about their unique build.



Kellie8: Hi, your place was amazing! would you recommend the 'Grand Design' experience?


Dom & Sue: Yes, definitely. Grand Designs Australia is an amazing experience, it was fantastic to have a record and a memory of what we went through.


Gavin8: Does Dom do private consults? He has great ideas!


Dom & Sue: Yes he does. You can contact him via The LifeStyle Channel at


Elissa6: Any plans for kids?


Dom & Sue: Yes, definitely but we didn't want to jinx it by designing a house for one.


Jedi: Loved the house guys... do you feel fitter walking up and down all those stairs?


Dom & Sue: Yes we do! We gave up our gym memberships a few months ago.


Kellie8: Would you change anything if you did it again?


Dom & Sue: Probably would have done with the concrete - we would have reduced the amount of trade on site to speed up the project. That's being really critical though as we are very happy with the outcome.


Jedi: Did you consider building the house in any other areas or did it have to be Surry Hills?


Dom & Sue: We were looking in Surry Hills and were really lucky this site came up. We were looking for quirky sites around the CBD, not just Surry Hills. Sue came across it in a flyer from a local agent.


RainbowWomanTas: Interesting way of building.....I could see an underground house built like that!


Dom & Sue: Yeah it could or partial underground for sure!


Greg42: Hey Dom - Good stuff mate! I am very jealous - you actually did what I always wanted to do.


Dom & Sue: That's flattering thank you. It's all about having the conviction and passion to do a project.


Conor3: Do you think you could have managed the budget better?


Dom & Sue: Yes! Without a doubt. I guess the issue is you get caught up in the process. You are aware of material you would like to use and they extend the budget. I could have done it cheaper and put my developer’s hat on but we were trying to find a balance between quality and budget.


cj01: great project - very inspiring - what are the heating and cooling systems used?


Dom & Sue: It has floor heating for winter which is very efficient. We have put reverse cycle air in each room as a back up. The thermal chimney and special glazing windows help as well.


gavin51094: when you bought the land, were you confident that council would allow you to build somethig so quirky?


Dom & Sue: I wasn't sure if I would be able to get away with it but I knew I was adjacent to a 10 storey building and that we lie on the southern side of it so I don't overlook anyone so I was confident it would be okay.


Greg42: Did you think about a spiral staircase?


Dom & Sue: We thought about it at one stage but it is too awkward to get up and down. It is quite common in Japan. We're not quite ready for that here!


Tony27: Loved the house. Looking forward already to the GD Revisited when the houses is really lived in and the garden well established.


Dom & Sue: Even after a few months it is amazing how established the garden is, especially after the first month of spring. It is interesting for us to look back and see what it was like.


kylie: Your house is truly amazing, well done!!! My question is where are your wardrobes/storage?


Dom & Sue: We actually have a lot of storage that didn't appear on the show because the glass cabinet package wasn't ready. It runs from the garage through to the first level.


Gavin51094: Hi Guys, Congrats on a fantastic pad. Clearly a great challenge, but what a great outcome. Can already picture you sitting up on the rooftop on those balmy summer evenings. Enjoy!!!!


Dom & Sue: Thank you! We love it.


Pam10: Awesome house. Do you think that the small site inspired creativity?


Dom & Sue: Yes! Small spaces always push architects to think outside the box.


Conor3: House looks great, any major regrets on the build, anything you would redo if you had the chance?


Dom & Sue: Not really, I don't have any negative feelings towards the build other than that I would monitor the council road closures better!


Kate68: We loved your house. What plants do you have growing on the rooftop garden?


Dom & Sue: We have a fig tree and a host of lavender, bay leaves, lemon trees and lots of herbs.


Jasmine11: I love the way you furnished the home - did it take all lot of time and thought to decorate it, or did it come quite easily?


Dom & Sue: Very easy actually! It is about having really comfortable pieces that are functional.


Liena: Your pad is magical,where did you get your choice of paintings?


Dom & Sue: We love art and contemporary pieces. We get them from Iain Dawson Galleries.


Conor3: When building the house, did you build it to live in forever, or was there a part of you that thought you could sell it in a few years time?


Dom & Sue: It is certainly not forever but for a decent period of time. It depends on what might come out of what we do together. It was a development project in my mind as much as a home and we have added a lot of value to it.


Liena: Did you succeed with you fathers tomatoes?


Dom & Sue: They are still growing. We'll know in about a month's time!


Rob21: Great job guys! Must have been stressful, but eventually worth it! I missed the start of the show....can you tell me what size the block was please?


Dom & Sue: The block is 7m x 6m … so we built up!


typedmillepede: How does the thermal chimney work? Is the chimney up that triangle bit on the side?


Dom & Sue: No, it uses the stair void to draw air from the bottom of the house to the top of the house. You open the upper most door on the roof terrace to create a current through the house.


Tony28: Great to see your work again Dom. It's been a while since building North apartments and your unique pad.



Gavin8: So who owned the street lamp after all of that?


Dom & Sue: Energy Australia still own it and it's still in the position that they moved it to.


Kathy2: How did you get away with no railing on the stairs?


Dom & Sue: A timber wardrobe now sits in front of that staircase but it had not been installed at the time of the final viewing.


Mark81: Did you find the land and then design the house to suit, or did you always have this type of building design in mind?


Dom & Sue: You do some quick studies to see what will work for the site. Because it was 7x6m it meant I had an additional metre on one side to work with.


Nick30: How upset did the neighbours really get with the street closures?


Dom & Sue: They were quite upset, they are not used to the activity but it was a short term pain. It was four days of actual closures.


Elissa6: How much did you budget for furniture?


Dom & Sue: We had a lot of the pieces. The initial budget was absorbed into the build so in the end we didn't buy that much.


Gregory2: Fantastic home and particularly loved your minimalist kitchen design. Can I ask who did the work for you?


Dom & Sue: Karisma Joinery. They were great!


cj01: I might have missed it from the show, but how long did it take from breaking ground to moving in?


Dom & Sue: It took a year.


Stuart16: What do the neighbours think of it now?


Dom & Sue: They are all very friendly! I think they have realised the value of our home in their street rather than an empty corner with people's trash.


Joley2: Second build on Grand Designs Australia and love it!! How the heck does building regulations allow that little terraced house to be tucked amongst the rest?


Dom & Sue: That little house is an infill property. We have doubled the value of that house. In the future they can build to our height. There was no impact in regards to the residence.


Theo2: 67 stairs, exhausted thinking about it!



Kate68: Does it feel unusual living in a vertical rather than a horizontal space? Does it "feel" different?


Dom & Sue: It does! It is really nice because you discover a new floor every day.


Tony27: Do you have the ability to keep going up from a design pov?


Dom & Sue: No. That is the limit. We maximised the evelope within the council's requirements.


Kellie8: Is the home functional?


Dom & Sue: yes, very. We love it


Rob21: If your parents come to stay can they stay at your place?


Dom & Sue: Yes they can and they already have!


Robbie22: Love love love the house guys.. so contemporary and great design aesthetic. Were you influenced by any architects in particular?


Dom & Sue: Yes. I love Japanese architects especially Taeao Ando.


Tony28: Who was the precast subbie?


Dom & Sue: Hanson Precast. They were fantastic!


Dean16: Hi Dom, I just caught the end of grand designs and thought your build looked familiar and then I realised I did the BASIX for you back in May 2008. Did you have any problems with council or throughout the build with any of the BASIX??


Dom & Sue: Hi there, not at all! We complied with all the requirements. It is amazing how cool the house is.


Bill16: Hi Sue and Dom, watched the show and wanted to know how many gnomes live with you? Do they stay outside at night, or are they allowed in?


Dom & Sue: Hilarious! There is only one gnome; he wasn't allowed to just be a gnome. He is a seat as well. He is not allowed inside!


Jdz: The house looks like it stands out, how does it fit in with the environment?


Dom & Sue: Sydney has an old and new fabric. It has some great architecture and needs more of it!


Bill16: Why didn't you guys go for an elevator?


Dom & Sue: There wasn't any room. I like the stairs but I would have liked a dumb waiter - a lift enclosed into the wall cavity that I could have used for laundry or platters of food. They are fantastic but cost over $16,000.


Robbie22: Your house is incredible!!! What's your favourite feature of the design?


Dom & Sue: The concrete panels - the way the house has been built. It looks fantastic in the streetscape.


Bill16: Do you need any window cleaning equipment and how do you mop the stairs?


Dom & Sue: We hire someone to do the windows and mopping the stairs is painful because the builders are still here on a regular basis!


Kathy2: How does the concrete pre-fab cost stack up against normal timber construction costs?


Dom & Sue: Once you add the cost of the scaffolding and the labour involved with that, you get a much better quality product. You spend the money on the product as opposed to the labour.


Jasmine11: Can you explain a little more about the triangle bit on the side and what its use is?


Dom & Sue: It is on our boundary. We utilise it for our services such as plumbing, electrical etc. It works perfectly!


Robbie22: Where did you get that amazing chair? So cool.


Dom & Sue: From Space Furniture. It is called the "up" chair and is designed on the female form. It is meant to be a mother and the ball infront is meant to be the child. It is Dom's favourite chair.


Bill16: Where is the laundry and can you hang washing on the rooftop.


Dom & Sue: The laundry is done in the garage and it is hung out to dry in there too. If it is sunny, we will carry things up to dry in the sun.


Max8: Great house guys, did you celebrate tonight?


Dom & Sue: Thank you! Lots of friends, plenty of champagne and it is one of the first times we have celebrated so it is very special. We have enjoyed the process so much and now it is time to sit back and relax. Thank you everyone for all your amazing questions!

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Posted by Report
Your on site manager Hassan? was incredibly even tempered. I really like the way he approached problem solving with eg the Council and road closure expiration dates. Did he ever lose his rag and it wasn't shown on TV or is he that diplomatic as a default setting? I would love to use him on my build. His name and contact details?
Posted by SharonReport
Love love love your place and finally we are redoing our garden and have purchased a vas one pot in gloss white...... I have question about the pot
1 what's the plant in it
2 did you drill a hole in the base
3 did you plant directly into the pot or did u use a pot in the pot for easy removal
Soooo sooo loved your use of space what a talent pair You are

Please excuse my typos iPad =. fat finger errors lol
Posted by Cameron61Report
Hi Dom and Sue,
We have watched episode 2, over and over again and love what you have created. Even though we are in Melbourne, I have see your house in the flesh many times as a long time client is your neighbour ( probably the grumpy one during construction )
We are considering building a new home on a small inner city plot, 11M wide by 10M deep 4 levels and would prefer the same construction method to secure a quicker lock up stage and hopefully speed up the entire process. I appreciate the costs are a toss up of time v materials so we are prepared for this, however, is there any advise you could share on the pitfalls of this method? Kind regards,