Grand Designs Australia

Island life: A Grand Design that's totally off the grid

The biggest challenge of this incredible off-grid Grand Design was getting materials to site - every element had to be shipped over to the island by barge.

French Island, in Victoria's western port bay, is an almost forgotten place. It's only two hours from Melbourne, but with no road connection to the mainland and a population of just 120 people, it's completely off-grid and pretty isolated.

But three years ago, Mike and Debby Gearon decided it was the perfect place to live.

"I just found in love with the idea of the island and I like that it's a little bit hard," Marc says. "You've got your own electricity, your own water, you've got logistics of trying to get on and off the island, and there are great people here too."

The couple bought a 147-acre block, that includes a 700m stretch of beach frontage. Inspired by homes in Debby's native Nebraska, the plan for their Grand Design begun with a single level layout with two separate wings. One for their frequent international guests, and the other entirely for Mike and Deb.

In between those is one main central room. Debby calls this the 'Great Hall', and it's been built to match. Solid exposed timber trusses will make up the core structure, offset with massive granite walls as well as a fireplace of medieval proportions. Framed at both ends with full height glazing, it should be bathed in light, creating an almost transparent effect from the front door through to Western Port Bay.

The exterior is simply clad in timber. A separate building includes a pottery studio for Debby with an office for Mike above. In all, it's an enormous 600 square metre self-sufficient complex. 

Mike's biggest challenge was the remoteness of the island itself. There is no road access, so every vehicle has to be brought over by the island's only barge. It can take two cars, or in Mike's case, one truck.

"I'm an eternal optimist and I always expect things to work, but it is really tough," Mike said during the build. "This is the toughest thing I've ever done. It's the barge, it's the tides, and even if the tides are favourable the wind can come up and then they've gotta cancel because if the wind's up and it's just too dangerous."

The couple's original budget for their secluded island paradise was under 750k, but in the end, they spent close to 2 million. Even while they exceeded their budget, the couple has created an incredible home that's a true representation of their island life aspirations.

See more incredible Grand Designs Australia homes on Lifestyle.

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