WORDS Kristin Lee PHOTOGRAPHY Adele Van Es
Highly aesthetic panorama surrounds Bush Creek Buddha, a contemporary rural home-cum-purpose-built yoga retreat located in Taggerty. Yet despite the awe-inspiring outlook of the looming large Cathedral Range, it’s hard to believe that couple Suzy Van Der Vlies and Philip Williams weren’t blown away with their first visit to the 39-acre property with bush and creek frontage.
As former inner-Melbourne-based corporates, Suzy was a project manager in the superannuation industry and Philip was a lawyer with his own firm, their tree-change quest was to, at the very least, find something with an aspect and reasonable soil. It also needed to be within a couple of hours of the city.
“We must have been having a bad day because we didn’t see that (the view) very clearly,” Philip said while gazing through the huge glass windows in the modish, light-filled living-dining room. “We sort of thought that was the block over there,” he added, pointing in the opposite direction, “and this block wasn’t part of it.”
But a couple of weeks later, Suzy and Philip returned for a second look. “We came in and they had put in access over the top of the creek and we thought, ‘How did we miss this view?’ So we just stood right here on this spot (where the house now stands) and we made up our minds and bought it within the next few days.”
Since reading about Iyengar yoga in a BRW magazine, and instantly feeling calm and clear after her first class 21 years ago, Suzy became an ardent yoga enthusiast and eventually a qualified Iyengar yoga teacher. After attending a yoga retreat in Tuscany, Italy, during the ’90s, she thought, “It would be great to have something like this in Australia, but a little more luxurious. In other words, not sharing a room with other people you don’t know, not having to cook and not having to source the food as well.” A few years later, her dream began to take shape.
Disenchanted with their corporate careers, and with Suzy’s daughter at university, Suzy and Philip were keen to reduce the stress in their lives and follow their heartfelt passions: for Suzy, running Iyengar yoga retreats and for Philip, pursuing kinesiology. While Philip has been doing yoga since Suzy started, he experienced a profound change in his health through kinesiology – reduced stress, an easing of back and body pain, plus overcoming possible minor depression.
Often challenging for people to get their heads around, Philip described kinesiology in simplistic terms: “If you think that you have an energetic body as well as a physical body, what kinesiology is doing is balancing the physical to the energetic, or the energetic to the physical; one affects the other … it’s all about looking at a person’s health in a really holistic manner.”
With the slab for the house poured in 2002, the vivacious French-born Suzy and calm, observant Philip made the move a few years later and commenced the yoga retreats seven years ago – post a heap of mud that was the benched building site.
In terms of the design, they had complete input and were the project managers, Suzy’s forte. The vistas to the south-east had to be incorporated. Equally important was creating a solar passive abode. They praised architect George Yiontis from Coy Yiontis Architects for sticking to the brief, listening to them and capturing both the views and northern sun so well.
“We went through about six different schematic designs and we settled on this. And there had to be a place for the Buddha (statue),” Philip explained. “So we had this Buddha in every design except this one; it was going to be placed inside, possibly in a light-well. That’s how we sort of got the name Bush Creek Buddha, because that little fella out there (outside the living-dining room) was always coming up in everything. It never got a guernsey inside in the end.”
Indeed, the appeal of Bush Creek Buddha is how harmoniously it sits into the landscape. A striking juxtaposition of upright messmate and horizontal hoop pine, the window dominant living-dining room reveals formidable live murals of lush countryside and the now blackened Cathedral Range (fortunately Suzy and Philip were able to defend the property from the Black Saturday bushfires). With the “Rolls Royce of double glazing”, and an elegant wood fire, a classic 12-seater French oak dining table, which Suzy’s had for the last three decades, is perfectly placed on the porcelain floor tiles.
The light and airy yoga room has gleaming floorboards and various apparatus that ranges from blocks, ropes and racks to straps and blankets. Although it was always the intention to have the retreats, due to local interest, Suzy also runs regular weekly yoga classes there. She explained why Iyengar yoga appealed. “I always go back to it because it is so useful, particularly with what I do here because you can adapt it to every person. We have people of varying experiences; people who have done yoga and some people who have never done it before,” she said. “The other distinguishing feature is it focuses your mind; you pay attention to your alignment and that just harnesses that attention. It’s meditation in action.”
Four comfy guest rooms, each with two single beds, run directly off the main hallway (two bedrooms have en suites, the other two share a large, modern bathroom). Providing a comfortable, relaxed and intimate experience, surprisingly guests can do their yoga and savour a glass of wine too.
On one side of the dwelling is the former garage turned pavilion with glass doors, which now doubles as a communal space for guests and a waiting room for Philip’s kinesiology clients. The adjoining kinesiology treatment room is infused with natural light.
Somewhat of a garden aficionado, Philip had the challenge of converting a bare, dirty paddock into what it has become today – a well-tended garden with a front hedging of red-tipped photinia, plus an assortment of native and classic flowering plants. Kangaroos and wombats frequent the grounds, while four Buddha statues remain permanent fixtures. Some rather large water tanks are strategically placed on the hill for gravity-fed water. There’s also a worm farm septic.
In addition to her daily yoga practice of up to two hours, Suzy loves swimming in the 12.5-metre solar heated swimming pool. Meanwhile, Philip has an organic vegie patch that was growing kale, potatoes, broad beans and rhubarb, and has a netted orchard of quince, peach, pear, apple, plum, fig and nectarine trees, plus raspberries, blueberries and loganberries. From here they pluck produce for their own meals as well as guests.
While they essentially call Bush Creek Buddha home, Philip and Suzy still have a small pad in Melbourne, with Philip running a kinesiology clinic a couple of days a week in Carlton. Although Suzy would like to see more men participate at the retreats, and Philip would love to expand his kinesiology practice at Taggerty, they are pleased with how Bush Creek Buddha has evolved. “Some of them (guests) have come back three or four times,” Philip said. “It’s like they are coming back home in a way, coming to their place in the country.”
For more information, visit www.bushcreekbuddha.com.au