The Sustainable Design of The Hinterland Studio

The Sustainable Design of The Hinterland Studio

When the founders of The Dharma Door started drawing up plans to convert the storage shed on their rural property into a simple photo studio, word quickly got around. It became apparent that the local brands, artists and craftspeople in the Northern Rivers community of NSW were also seeking something similar - a place to shoot their imagery or hold the occasional special event. As a result, Shannon and Mick Sheedy decided to extend the vision to create something unique for other small business owners to use and enjoy. And so The Hinterland Studio was born.

In four fast months they worked with a talented local crew to create a peaceful space that is perfect for photoshoots and small events. The couple care deeply about their environmental impact, so they created a stunning space without compromising on sustainability or the natural surroundings of the studio - a creative space where beauty and sustainability meet.

The studio is set in lush, tropical gardens and the design of the space integrates simple sustainability elements that mirror The Dharma Door approach to protecting people and the planet. Here, Shannon provides more detail into the eco-friendly and style selections she has made.

Before we get into the design of The Hinterland Studio, tell us how the idea came about?

Located on our two and a half acre property atop a ridge in Clunes, the shed was built in 2013 as a warehouse for our Fair Trade homewares business The Dharma Door. We quickly outgrew her but kept our office in one corner. Over time, she has seen many things come and go - mostly storing samples or furniture for friends and family. We always knew she was destined for bigger and better things!

We have always wanted to create a space to shoot our own imagery, particularly some of the larger items in our collection like the wall hangings and pendant lighting, which can be sometimes tricky to install temporarily on a one-day shoot. So last year we decided to convert a portion of the shed for this purpose. As we started to talk with our friends, we realised that other businesses were looking for the same thing. Because I had worked in photo studios in the UK during my youth, it seemed like an obvious step to take. There are so many talented craftspeople and interesting brands in our community and it is great to be connecting with them in this way.

When designing the space, what were your key points of focus?

Light - first and foremost. Because The Hinterland Studio is a photographic studio, it was important for us to create an environment that is fresh and bright, with different qualities of natural light throughout the day to allow the photography magic to happen. We therefore went with white on white for the floors, walls and ceilings, incorporating over-height recycled timber doors, French doors, a large pane of glass and large roller door to allow natural light to flood the 12 x 5 metre space. In the afternoon a softer, filtered light is available in the afternoons through these openings. An internal archway has soft light in the morning and brighter light in the afternoon from the north, creating a Mediterranean vibe.

We also knew that the space needed to be easy to use, robust and incorporate practical elements that makes it easy to pull up, unload and start styling. The long bench and overhead lighting in the bathroom make it easy to prepare hair and makeup.

And finally, we wanted it to look and feel good by including some of the style touches that The Dharma Door has become known for, such as rendered surfaces, a natural reed ceiling and the installation of a beautiful woven pendant light from our new lighting collection which sits proudly above the micro cement benchtop in the bathroom.

The environment is important to you. What sustainable design elements did you include in the space?

We began with insulation, as we knew this would allow us to control both variations in temperature and noise. Despite the high, raked ceiling in the studio, which can sometimes make things noisy, the use of this insulation and natural reed lining in other parts of the studio has helped to dull any sound and create a real ambience. Instead of opting for air conditioning, we installed two speed-controlled fans for reducing the temperature by up to six degrees during summer.

Living and working on a rural property that only has access to rainwater makes us acutely aware of how precious this resource is. We collect the water for the studio from the roof into a large tank when it rains. It is carefully filtered so it’s safe for drinking from the kitchen. This same consideration prompted us to install a modern compost toilet in the bathroom, which also minimises water usage and is well ventilated, clean, simple and truly sustainable.

Then there’s the smaller, important touches like compostable coffee pods and tea bags, recycling and composting bins, compostable bin liners and sanitary bags, recycled paper products and eco-friendly cleaning methods.

What design and style elements did you include and why?

The oversized timber entrance doors are handcrafted with recycled Burmese teak doors and we really love the story they tell. In keeping with our sustainability objectives, we sourced second hand elements wherever possible, locating the French doors in a salvage yard nearby and the furniture is all repurposed.

We love the beautiful archway with soft corners, reminiscent of Mediterranean architecture and are enjoying The Dharma Door rugs in the kitchen space, which can also be used for shooting.

And finally, you and your husband Mick are keen gardeners. Tell us about the surrounding greenery.

Our property was once a part of the Big Scrub rainforest which was a large continuous expanse of lowland subtropical rainforest in the northern rivers region prior to farming and development. We have a small patch of remnant rainforest that we are currently regenerating. Remnant areas are rich in diversity, supporting many species of flora and fauna and we are aiming to provide a healthy habitat for these species to flourish.

Other parts of the property are a mix of old growth trees, newer landscaped areas of sub-tropical and native plants, majestic tall bamboo, citrus and food trees. We’ve included meandering pathways through the gardens which can be used as a backdrop for shoots.

Come and soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the hinterland while creating your next campaign or imagery for your brand. We welcome you to our creative space.



1 Response


August 02, 2021

What a magical place! What a serene place to work and just be….

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