Desa House 1

Desa House 4

Desa House 3

Desa House 5

Desa House 20

Desa House 2

Desa House 15

Desa House 16

Desa House 17

Desa House 18

Desa House 19

Desa House 14

Desa House 13

Desa House 8

Desa House 7

Desa House 11

Desa House 9

Desa House 10

Jan Juc: Deśa Retreat

House Size: 19.40m x 10.98m
Land Size: 3000m²
Project Type: Complete of renovation December 2019
Open (Free Entry): 16 October 1pm - 5pm

"Deśa Retreat is a place by the sea for seekers of yoga, healing, surf breaks, eco-stays, classes, courses, studio hire, plant-based cuisine and workshops. Surrounded by the serene coastline of Jan Juc, near Torquay, on the renowned Surf Coast of Victoria."

Experts on Site


Ben Shaw Permaculture
Permaculture and edible garden design.

About the house

Emma renovated a shed on her property at Desa Retreat and lived in it for 9 months with her three children while they renovated the main house. This tiny shed was built using some recycled materials and with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind in line with the values of the whole Desa Retreat. This tiny demonstrates how you can convert small spaces into sustainable usable living spaces and how families can live and utilize smaller spaces. Now that the house renovations are done the tiny is part of the accommodation on site for the retreat, the entire retreat is eco designed and surrounded by a permaculture garden. This open home is a great example of small renovations, smaller living and permaculture design principals. 

Emma story below;

Why did you choose to make the shed into a tiny home?
My preference was to stay on site during the build and also felt it made more sense to further invest in the property rather than pay rent elsewhere.  I thought down the track the tiny house might be a good hang out area for the kids too as they grew and needed more space to hang out with friends etc.

What inspired you to do so? 
Financially it seemed like a smarter option, and also increased the accommodation capacity of the retreat

What are your thoughts on smaller living?
I absolutely loved living in the tiny house for 9 months with my three children. I found we interacted much more, playing cards and board games etc as we didn’t have a tv, also I found I would ask them to help me more in the kitchen etc as they would be sitting there on their phone so close to where I was working so I was more incline to say hey you can you do blah blah as it seemed more obvious that I was the one working whilst they were all laying about!  Half way through the renovation of the main house I remember thinking, I don’t even need the main house! Maybe I will stay up in the tiny house and rent out the whole main house for retreats.  This is still something I consider doing, especially once the kids grow up and move out perhaps.  I love small living, there is far less housework to do, and living with less is far less stressful than living with more.

How you found the reno process? 
Dean Kellett from Kellett built was a complete joy to work with, I think choosing the right builder who you trust and can talk with honestly and openly is critical. Dean is a lovely old school tradesman, who cares deeply about the environment and his work. He is really passionate about depositing of waste responsibly and also about reusing and recycling as many of the materials on site as possible.  We really could have knocked down the old house and start again, however I wanted to make use of as many of the materials here as possible and also retain the original character of the home.  As a single mum renovating on my own was pretty overwhelming!

What did you learn along the way about sustainability?
I was really committed to making the property as sustainable as possible, I learnt that knowing what is the most sustainable option isn’t always easy, and each person you talk to can have a different spin on things, but often there is an underlying agenda to make things easier for themselves rather than truly choosing what is most sustainable. I also learnt that often with sustainability choices it is short term pain for the long term gain, ie it is more expensive up front for most sustainable options, however you save in the long run and you also have a clear conscious knowing that you have done your best to lessen the burden on mother nature.

What your intention was in creating the space?
I really wanted the whole property to feel like a sanctuary, that as soon as people stepped in the gate they immediately felt they could drop into their body and feel more connected to themselves and nature. I wanted people to go home feeling inspired to grow more food, to look after themselves and nature more consciously. (all this is on the website and videos too that go through this)

How you found it living in there with your three kids for nine months?
It was so fun, I actually could have kept going.  They were a little younger then than they are now, so perhaps as older teenagers like they are now it would have been a bit more of a challenge, but I loved living more closely with the kids, I think it depeeded our relationships even more.

My dream of Deśa began over 20 years ago as a hospitality graduate working overseas. The boutique hotel I envisaged then has since become more than just a place to relax and unwind. Deśa has evolved into a destination with the perfect environment to reflect and consciously re-engage with self. 

In our modern world, it’s easy to get caught up in a busy life spent running, where ‘relaxation’ means disconnecting from ourselves through distraction. Numbing ourselves through drugs, alcohol and buying more ‘things’. I am no stranger to this disconnection. From early adulthood I have grappled with trauma and circumstances where denial and distraction were my primary coping mechanisms. To escape, I travelled the world working different jobs in hospitality and management – always running away from the discomfort of the past.

After several years, I returned to Australia. Feeling the pressure of family to follow the conventional path of settling down and mapping out my future, I got that ‘proper’ job, fell in love, and soon fell pregnant with my first child. Over the next four years, I had two more beautiful children and became engulfed in the role of motherhood. With a husband who travelled almost constantly for work, my children became my focus. Forced to stand still, the events of my past caught up with me. My self-perception became one of self-loathing as post-natal depression took hold. Something remained missing, the authentic me.

A simpler life closer to nature beckoned. I returned to yoga and meditation and to my studies in counselling. After placing a note in a letterbox in a home in Jan Juc asking if the owners would be willing to sell, our family moved there in 2011. My dreams for Deśa began to take shape. My sense of self was returning and – recognising that we still barely knew each other – my husband and I separated in 2015, negotiating the terrain of shared custody of our children with care and love.

House specification

House information sheets

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