At Home With | Jools Macafee of BTM House

February 27, 2024

At Home With | Jools Macafee of BTM House

Situated in a leafy pocket of Byron Bay Australia, known to the nature-loving locals as Lilli Pilli, BTM House is a freshly built modern family home owned by Jools and Chris Macafee. The couple and their teenage son and daughter moved in just in time to host the extended family for Christmas 2022, albeit with paint drying on the walls and temporary cabinetry and benchtops giving the illusion of a completed kitchen.

“In June, we made the error of saying to family and friends we would have Christmas here, thinking we would be in with ease,” says Jools. “We were still getting things connected on Christmas Eve - it was nightmarish and stressful! After the family left, we fell into a big heap.” 


Home build journeys are often filled with unforeseeable road bumps and detours, and the Macefee’s project was no exception. Chris and Jools faced many issues, including a protracted council approval process and COVID-related material shortages and inflated costs. “And then, after we got through the shock of the price hikes and struggles getting material, we had the weather, which was non-stop rain for months,” Jools adds. 

The two-storey home sits on a sloped block and is set on a concrete slab, with a cantilevered slab making up the second level. “It was a very technical build, and trying to pour big slabs of concrete in constant rain was just another hurdle.” The inviting sunken living room by the oak-panelled kitchen and dining area on the second level is a stylish addition and a vital structural element that anchors the two slabs. Jools laughingly recalls how it looked like an oversized water feature at certain points during the build. “We would have to tell people that we haven’t done an indoor pool - it’s the sunken lounge, and when it stops raining and we get a roof on, you will see it!”

The ‘conversation pit’ gathering spot is a throwback design feature that melds effortlessly with Jools and Chris’ impressive Danish midcentury furniture, lighting and art collection. The couple's passion for vintage design is on a professional and genetic level. Their respective parents were both in the antiques trade, and Jools and Chris owned and operated vintage furniture stores across Melbourne, their home city before moving to Byron just over a decade ago. While the couple no longer deals in furniture, they stay connected to the market and source unique designs via 20th Century Scandinavia, a store in Melbourne’s Brunswick East run by Jools’ sister.

“With our furniture history, I’ve always been interested in the story behind a piece as well as how it feels and looks,” says Jools, adding that one of her favourite midcentury pieces they own is the Arne Norell safari chair made of rosewood and tan leather.

This love of finely crafted, tactile objects designed to endure is part of the reason Jools has incorporated storage baskets by The Dharma Door into the home. “There is something about the natural fibres and the weight of the products that I love,” she says. “Touching and feeling those products is something I can appreciate, and it fits into the look of our home, especially in the areas where we have chosen darker charcoal tones.”

In the primary bedroom, the grey limewashed walls (applied by Jools) and dark sheers amplify the brilliant green of the nature-dense outlook. In fact, the home and its large expanses of glazing are all oriented to the sub-tropical crown land that saddles up beside the Macafee’s dwelling. It was this green aspect that drew Jools and Chris to their breezy 1300 square-metre block in late 2020. The surroundings are alive with bird song and wildlife, and tree shadows dapple the home’s interiors over a day. “You see silhouettes projected onto the ceilings or walls, and then it changes within 10 minutes. It’s lovely having that filtered light,” says Jools.

For all the stress that manifested during the build, BTM House is an oasis of calm and family togetherness for the Macafees. They gather for dinner each night in the kitchen, and the (actual) pool on the deck is a magnet for all family and friends. The hard work is done, but one very special job is yet to be completed: the creation of a plaque in memory of Brian Thomas Macafee, Chris’s cherished father and the inspiration for BTM House’s name.

“We lost Brian last November to motor neuron disease,” Jools shares. “Building from scratch was something we had never done before, and Chris’s dad was always interested in what stage we were up to. He was always a very supportive man, so we decided to name our house BTM House in his honour. Putting up a proper plaque will be one of the final things we do, and I think it’s very important.”


@b.t.m_house | Written by Jessica Bellef | Images by Louise Roche, Villa Styling

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