Susan Volz’s mission is to solve the disconnection between urban dwellers and food production.

As a youngster growing up in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, Susan Volz loved nothing more than holidays on her grandparents’ vegie farm in the LockyerValley. “We never had flash holidays,” she recalls. “All the cousins would get together and in the mornings we’d help out with harvest or whatever else needed doing on the farm. Then we’d all have lunch together and spend the afternoons running wild, swimming in the creek, building cubbies, doing what kids do when they are left to their own devices.”

Little wonder then that 12 years ago when Susan and her husband, David, went looking for somewhere to build a home on Brisbane’s periphery, they bought a 3.75-acre former orchard the day they first inspected. Located at Highvale in the lush SamfordValley, the property had been planted years earlier to mango, lychee, carambola and custard apple trees. Susan and David designed their home to look as though it had been there forever, but with very contemporary passive solar features to ensure its footprint on the land was minimal. Orientation, cross ventilation and thermal mass ensure the house requires negligible heating and cooling, even when summer temperatures soar. “We wanted all the features of an old homestead — high ceilings, wide floorboards and an open feel,” Susan explains. “But we also made sure there were nooks that could be closed off for a cosy feel and we were lucky that a builder friend of my father helped us realise our dream.”

When it came to colouring in the finer details, Susan would pack the babies (Emily, now 14, and Henry, now 13) in the car, with an Esky full of snacks and drinks and head off in search of garage sales, roadside clearances and junk shops. “Before the internet age, you had no choice but to get out on the road and search out pieces individually,” she recalls. “These days you could do it all from the comfort of your home via eBay or Etsy. But I was well equipped as I’d been a collector of vintage stuff since I was a kid. When I was still at school I had a job at a hairdressing salon and I spent my first pay on a little suitcase from the local trash and treasure shop. If I’d known there was such a career as interior design I probably would have pursued it.”

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This story was originally published in the December 2015/ January 2016  issue of Australian Country. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass