“As a little girl my family couldn’t afford to stay in hotels but it was my ultimate dream to do just that. It only dawned on me once we’d completed The Bower that I’d actually conceptualised, designed and built my childhood dream. It was a big moment for me”
Taliah Lowry, creative director of Byron Beach Abodes, The Villas of Byron Bay and one of the founders of Bryon’s most stylish hotels ‘The Bower’, is a woman quietly changing the landscape for holiday-makers in one of the world’s most iconic travel destinations.
Taliah creates spaces that are a true reflection of her unique life experiences. Allowing the patterns, textures and tones found in nature inspire her palette, and combined with her ability to allow a property to rest effortlessly in its natural environment, creates a transformative experience for guests immersed in the subtle yet soft styling of Taliah’s properties.
In her account for A Grounded Life, Taliah not only shares her incredible passion for creating spaces but also generously shares her ongoing struggle with anxiety. She finds comfort in small daily rituals of routine that include meditating , yoga, and the support of a loving family, and gains inner strength by regularly challenging herself physically and mentally with her love for extreme mountain hiking.
Please enjoy this gracious and insightful account of a very Grounded Life, lived by Taliah Lowry.
1. Where do you call home?
Byron Bay, Australia
2. What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is wherever my family is.
3. What are the elements that help you transform a house into your home?
Natural elements that softly echo nature - the colours, the textures, it’s raw, honest beauty. No-one does it better than Mother Nature. It’s those colours and textures that form the basis of my palette in the selection of building materials and every piece of decor. Then there’s my collection of mementos I’ve gathered on my travels around the world which instantly make a place feel like home.
For instance in The Lodge, which is now our family home, we’ve used raw timber cladding that reminds me of the silver tree trunks of the forests in NZ, and the grey limestone floors bring back memories of rock hopping between the waterfalls at Rocky Creek where I grew up with my dad. I have birds nests I’ve collected on various nature walks and vintage prints from all around the world as part of my decor. We also have Sein’s (my husband) great grandfather’s old camera in its aged brown leather case sitting on the shelf amongst the prints and birds nests, my grandmother's old hand-written recipe book and so much more. They hold such sentimental value of a place we’ve been, people we’ve met, and of course family that have passed long ago but still live on in our hearts.
4. What creative projects find you most excited and energised?
Ones where I have to think outside of the box. It could be building on a tight budget, in a small space or on a challenging building site. Every project I’ve done that has had bigger restrictions or limitations somehow always ends up as a favourite.
The Chapel for example is small but mighty in its impact. Because the building footprint is small we had to be creative in using vertical scale to our advantage. It meant bringing natural light in through clever custom glazing, installing a bespoke staircase and creating interest in all of the design elements. It really became quite a celestial space.
The Lodge was built on a very sloped block of land with neighbours close on both sides. A sloping block meant building on three levels and I love that each level defines the different areas of our home, each with its own purpose. Window placement was super important too. We wanted maximum airflow and natural light flooding in but also wanted to capture the most beautiful outlooks across the treetops to the ocean but without seeing neighbours. The windows are now a distinct design feature of The Lodge and the vignettes of nature that are captured through them are a constant reminder of the beauty that surrounds us. We also added massive skylights and a glass section of roof over the dining table and stairways to bring in even more natural light.
New builds give you lots of freedom when it comes to design but I’m also excited by projects that have a history such as The Cottage, Chalet and The Bower. I love reimagining a property while paying homage to its original story. It could be as simple as retaining just some of the elements of the original build like keeping the existing roof line of The Chalet and the original timber cladding in The Cottage reused as a feature ceiling lining, or it could be a complete reimagining of the property like we did at The Bower. What a satisfying creative journey that was converting an original mid century drive-in motel into a sophisticated boutique hotel which blends glamorous Manhattan luxe with the laid back Bohemian personality of Byron Bay.
Too often I see homes and properties that have been completely knocked down when they had so much to offer as a starting point for a re-versioned design.
5. Which life and/or work projects are you most proud of?
The Bower was by far my biggest project and probably the one I’m most proud of.
As a little girl my family couldn’t afford to stay in hotels but it was my ultimate dream to do just that. It only dawned on me once we’d completed The Bower that I’d actually conceptualised, designed and built my childhood dream. It was a big moment for me.
The Cabin is also another project that has huge personal significance to me. Its design was inspired by the unparalleled natural beauty of NZ where we spent so much time exploring in 2019 on our year-long family sabbatical. I soaked up inspiration everywhere from the colour of moss on tree trunks and the rocks in rivers to the unimaginable blue/green/grey hues of the water. That year really was one for the best years of our lives.
6. Could you share with us some personal insights into a challenging time in your life?
I am very open about the darker times in my like - mostly my struggle with anxiety. I feel it’s so important to be honest and open about mental health issues to normalise it in a way that hopefully gives others the freedom and encouragement to talk about it. Hopefully someone, somewhere can relate to my story and I can help in some little way. It’s an ongoing battle for me as I know it is with others.
Other people’s perspective of my life can sometimes be that it’s all blue skies - success in business, travel, a great family, and everything I could possibly want for. I’m very grateful in so many ways but the truth is anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct result of something “bad “ happening in your life. So for me it’s finding that balance between dealing with my anxiety and having absolute gratitude for what I do have and all the many positives in my life. It’s something I work on every day. The appearance of a “perfect life” just masks the fact that there’s been a lot of heartache and struggle along the way.
I want to say just how important Byron Beach Abodes has been for me. It’s allowed me to pursue my creative dreams, meet a network of people that support me and encourage me and my vision, and love what I create. It’s really humbling and I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love surrounded by good people. It has really helped me, among other things, to manage my anxiety.
And although I’ve found the tools to help me manage, I want to make sure I help spread awareness about this sickness. Keeping it real is so important!
7. What did you learn about yourself throughout this challenge?
I’ve always been shy and just quietly wanting to please everyone around me. Now I’ve found my voice and my passion, and I would not have done that without going through the struggles I’ve been through. It’s been really character-building.
My family and my closest friends have stuck by me no matter what, and for that I’m forever grateful.
And beyond that, I’ve learnt how powerful social media and meeting and connecting with people through my business can be. I have a beautiful community around me that supports me, often from afar. It really is beautiful.
8. What type of activities or rituals do you instil to help you remain Grounded?
I love routine and to be honest am lost without it.
My latest ritual is Hot Pilates with Heat studio in Byron . This keeps me on track mentally and physically, although I’ve got a long way to go! I also do daily meditation in my sauna.
9. What is the best life advice you have been given?
Don’t worry about what others think. It’s pretty simple really but it’s been the hardest thing for me to learn.
For example, I used to have severe anxiety about unveiling a new project. Would people like it? Have I done a good enough job? I have to say living in a small town can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and can come with a lot of criticism as well as support. I’ve always designed for myself, what makes me happy and what’s true to my aesthetic. It’s never been about others, so now I focus only on this and don’t get caught up in the (perceived) mindset of others.
10. Favourite travel destination for Grounding yourself:
Hiking in NZ without a doubt. It’s where I feel most grounded and happy.
The very first hike I did in NZ was the most challenging day of my entire life. It was totally unexpected and completely changed me. I travelled through fear to absolute elation all within the space of a day. It was a day that affected me in so many ways.
I had no idea what I was in for when I was invited to go along on a hike with a new friend who was also a very experienced hiker. It was to celebrate her 40th birthday. Little did I know it was a hike on the very edge of a mountain. The ‘one slip and you slide off the side of the mountain’ kind of hike. Then it was hours of climbing over endless, unstable rock boulders (I called them moon rocks) followed by a vertical climb over the mountain with no track and then finally a vertical climb down the other side.
Half way through, when I had a moment of phone coverage, I phoned my husband to let him know that I wasn’t sure I’d make it and to please let the boys know I loved them. True story. Well I obviously did make it and it turned out to be the best day of my life!
That very day I knew if I could survive the hike I could bloody well do anything I set my mind to.
From that day I haven’t let anything stop me in my tracks, and have accomplished many of my dreams. I found my power, I felt grounded in myself which In turn gave me belief in myself. It was something I never truly had until then. It also gave me a love of hiking and an undeniable desire to keep challenging myself, both physically and mentally.
And it cemented my love for NZ - the power of its unique nature from its rivers and glacier lakes to its mountains and forests.
11. One city must-do travel tip:
I can’t choose just one. Let’s start with MONA in Hobart. It’s a must see and so inspiring!
Vintage shopping in Melbourne.
And you can’t come to Byron without exploring the surrounding Hinterland villages, walking in Lamington National Park and swimming in the Hinterland’s many waterfalls. It's Mother Nature at her very best.