House Tour: The Rustic Fisherman’s Shack Turned Eco Retreat

The Little Black Shack on Sydney’s Great Mackerel Beach is designed around rest, relaxation and sustainability.

A short ferry ride from Palm Beach, Great Mackerel is a small coastal hamlet surrounded by National park and a long stretch of sandy beach. With no cars or shops, and a small local population, it offers a slower pace of life and a place of quiet tranquillity.

The Little Black Shack compliments the stunning natural environment and pared-back way of life.

Photography by Max Doyle

The owner’s believe they can inspire people to make choices that are better for the planet if they can provide them with an amazing experience that provides everything they need whilst taking very little from the environment.

From the bed the owner’s made themselves, it’s height relative to the windows with its 100% linen from Carlotta + Gee, to the low VOC paint on the walls and preloved furniture, the Little Black Shack is a clever curation of sustainable comfort and design.

Photography by Max Doyle

Originally hand-built by fishermen around the 1930s, the original shack was made using local timber and sandstone. It was later extended to accommodate the fishermen’s families with the addition of a kitchen, sandstone bathroom and a small sandstone storage shed with a toilet.

More than 80 years of exposure to the elements and termites had taken their toll so the current owners spent 18 months of hard work recycling, repurposing, reusing and rebuilding what couldn’t be fixed.

The shack is filled with an eclectic mix of pre-loved furniture, collectables and family ‘finds’ along with pre-loved objects gathered from the owner’s travels around Australia and the world and forages along the beach.

Photography by Max Doyle

The Little Black Shack is positioned to take advantage of the water’s natural cooling and heating system. In the summer the cool water temperature and fresh sea breezes from the north east are more than enough to keep the house cool and comfortable on even the hottest of days.

In the winter, the sea also regulates the temperature and its thermal effect actually keeps the shack warmer as the water temperature rarely drops below 17 degrees celsius.

Both bedrooms are furnished with cowhide rugs, antique cupboards and chests of drawers, handmade beds and 100% organic flax linen bedding from Carlotta and Gee. the 100% linen feels great, promotes deep and relaxing sleep and is thermo-regulating. Pure linen insulates in the winter keeping you warmer.

Photography by Max Doyle

And because it’s antistatic and doesn’t cling to your body, in summer, it relieves the skin of excessive heat to keep you cooler. The big beautiful, comfortable beds are completely made from second hand timber.

The king bed had a former life as a ramp to transport materials from the beach to the site. The queen bed is made from old timber salvaged on site.


Everything that’s painted or stained at the shack has been done with Porter’s Paints – 100% Australian made, environmentally friendly, all natural and water-based.

The natural Porter’s Paints used contain zero or extremely low VOC’s and are not only better for the environment, they are also better for you, decreasing asthmatic reactions and allergic sensitisation.

13 Standout Staircase Designs

From bold and winding centrepieces to sleek and modern stairwells, discover the award-winning staircase designs we’re loving in 2020. 

For new builds or home additions the staircase is a key consideration when it comes to style, budget and the flow of your home.

Staircases like these by Madeleine Blanchfield Architect and Henry Francis Design, can dominate a space and creating the ultimate ‘wow’ feature.

Tree House by Madeleine Blanchfield Architects, Photography Anson Smart

Skywalk by Henry Francis Design, Photography Andrew Richey

Staircases consist of many parts. The “risers” are the vertical part of of a stair, they can be closed or open. Closed means the stairs have a solid riser, and you can’t see through the staircase. Open means the riser is clear.

The straight open riser timber stairs in the Breezeway House allow for maximum light and space.

Breezeway House by David Boyle Architect, Photography Brett Boardman Photography

Closed risers prevent you from seeing what’s underneath the stairs and also allows you to use the space for other functions such as storage or a powder room. The staircase in the Armadale House by Sanders & King features clever closed risers design that allows for functionality while keeping a sophisticated feel.

Armadale House by Sanders & King, Photography Sharyn Cairns

Other designers like Brad Swartz Architects in the Darlinghurst House deliver clever design with a wine rack and small bathroom.

Darlinghurst House, Brad Swartz Architects, Photography Tom Ross

The “tread” is the horizontal part of the stair you put your foot on. This is often stained timber or carpeted.

“Nosing” is the front edge of the stair that protrudes over the riser beneath.

The Solid House by Coy Yiontis Architects uses a combination of concrete and timber stairs to create floating treads, while using rods from the ceiling as support.

The Solid House by Coy Yiontis Architects

“Stringers” are the side component that support the treads and risers of the stairs. They can also be cut or closed. A closed stringer can hide the treads from view when side on to the staircase, or they may be cut, exposing the side profile of the treads.

Tamarama House by Bennett Murada Architects, Photography Brett Boardman Photography

This staircase in the Ivanhoe Residence has a traditional stringer, the two supportive boards on either side of a flight of stairs. Stringers can be either freestanding or mounted against an adjacent wall like the one featured here.

Ivanhoe Residence by Doherty Design Studio, Photography Derek Swalwell

The staircase in this Victorian-era house has undergone a major design transformation to create a striking white and stone staircase that showcases its geometric design.

Inarc Architects, Photography Peter Clarke

Balusters are the vertical posts made from materials such as wrought iron, timber or stainless steel. While balustrading is essential for safety purposes, it also makes a design statement.

The handrail allows for steady egress up and down the staircase. Newels are the support columns within a staircase and they are often a design feature.

Photography Shannon McGrath

The streamline handrail in this sweeping staircase compliments the contemporary stone steps in this home known as Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio.

Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio, Photography David Roche

The Permiter House features a bold, black staircase and screen, complimented by the home’s wooden features and stone floors.

PERIMETER HOUSE by MAKE Architecture, Photography Peter Bennetts

Effortlessly classic, this black and white winding staircase in the Toorak House offers timeless elegance. with a modern touch.

Toorak House by Robson Rak Architects and Interior Designers,, Photography Brooke Holm