Building Adam McGrath’s dream home

As a professional photographer, Adam McGrath spent the past 15 years capturing other people’s homes in their best light. Having compiled a mental list of many successes and failures over the years, he was ready to build his own dream home in the rural suburb of Burra, NSW.  

Adam and his cycling friends would often be riding through the countryside outside Canberra, and it was on one of these rides that Adam realised that instead of just cycling through, he wanted to live there.

Six months later, despite his friends thinking he’d been joking, Adam put down the deposit on a block, and started dreaming.

While most people start off thinking about the building, Adam took a different approach. Having seen many of his clients leaving the landscaping until after the build, this is where he wanted to start. 

So he built a large shed, complete with a small studio apartment, in order to live on the block and started landscaping. Adam especially wanted to study the way that the landscape was affected by the seasons. In particular, the way the light moved, to help inform the design and positioning of the house. 

Fast forward a few years and it’s no longer just Adam living in a corner of the shed. It’s now Adam, his partner Netty and two young children and the new family home couldn’t come soon enough for all of them.

One of Adam’s clients during this time was the award winning interior architect, Sonja Archer. Having photographed many of Sonja’s designs, Adam trusted her judgement. So when Adam was looking for a builder, he happily followed Sonja’s recommendation and got in touch with Brendan from Homes By Howe.

Brendan and his team worked with Adam and Netty to bring their vision to life. In addition to Brendan’s experience and problem solving skills, many members of his team added their own expertise and advice to the build, bringing to life several small but significant improvements.


‘We felt like they were putting their heart into the build, not just turning up to do their job.’


For Adam, one of the biggest aspects of the build centred around the dining room window. This window had always been planned to capture his favourite view of the property, and was a leading factor in much of the build. Adam had initially planned a wide, landscape oriented window, however the engineer and three beams of structural steel had other ideas. 


‘It was Brendan that suggested turning this window to portrait and adding an angle to the top to overcome this. It’s my favourite part of the house.’


Another important detail of the building, for Adam and Netty, was the need to be energy efficient. This feature was achieved in spades. Adam and his family are now into their second winter in the house and have noticed exactly how well the house maintains its temperature, while saving money on bills. Using a hydronics consultant might not be the first item on most people’s building lists, but for this build it made all the difference.


‘You can see how ambient the temperature is when our one year old is able to run around barefoot on our concrete floors while it’s snowing outside.’


When asked, Adam describes the design of his home as simple; simple and efficient. Based on his photography experience in some of the largest homes in Canberra, Adam had seen how important it was to consider movement around a building, particularly in a family home. With two young children, Adam and Netty wanted a space that made the simple things easier. 

Many people say that ‘simple is hard’. But through smart design, experienced builders and a great team of trades, the McGraths have ended up with a simple, beautiful family home in Burra.

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