More than a little luxury
A Tasmanian writer blends her love of the Tasmanian environment with her admiration for Tasmanian artisans to create a jewel.
Perched on the side of a hill in the seaside town of Lewisham, 40 minutes’ drive from Hobart, is a new little house that’s getting a lot of attention. From the road, it would be easy to pass this gem by, but the simple dark exterior conceals a jewel. A wealth of high–end design and curated materials deliver warmth, and an outside–in philosophy brings the rugged beauty of Tasmania’s seascape into the palette. The space is small, just 9 meters in length, but it has serious impact. Proving that well–designed tiny houses can deliver everything needed for luxurious living, the architect designed home is an exemplar of innovative thinking. It’s no wonder it features in this year’s TV Series Grand Designs.
Owner Alice Hansen wanted to create a home that was small and beautiful – a celebration of what Tassie is. As a freelance writer, Alice wanted a small mortgage that she wasn’t tied to, but it was important to have a space that was inspiring.
“I wanted the house to let Tassie do the talking. I wanted simple lines with not too much going on so that nature could be drawn in. I wanted the house to be a shelter more than anything else. To cocoon me from the outside, but not detract from the external environment,” says Alice. “I also wanted an outdoor bath, and to be able to see the stars from my bed at night.”
A floor to ceiling Tasmanian Oak framed window makes up the entire front of the home. The view provides an everchanging scene of activity both human and wild. While discussing the merits of timber over aluminium for window frames with stylist Lucy Given, a giant sea eagle appeared almost on cue riding the up–draft above the coast right in front of the home. I thought, ‘Wow, you don’t see that every day,’ but maybe here you do. Everything about this house speaks to grandeur.
The view has particular meaning for Alice, having always admired the sand dunes on her way to Port Arthur and wondered what was on the other side.
“I had twenty pieces of land to look at for the build ranging from Lewisham to Nubeena and Port Arthur. I came to the blocks at Lewisham first.
“I sat on one of the blocks watching the ocean and dolphins started to jump out of the water. I said oh my god this is amazing – this is my place – it just felt right. I never went to the other blocks.”
The expansive window is mirrored by glass sliding doors of the same scale on the opposite side of the living area. Complimented by cleverly positioned skylights that provide glimpses of nature, the use of glass lets natural light stream into the room giving the small footprint an illusion of space.
A Tasmanian showcase
Grand Designs became interested in the project because their viewers had requested more Tasmanian content.
For the materials within the house, Alice steered the architect towards locally sourced.
“Anything that can be Tasmanian, let’s make it Tasmanian,” she said.
“For the flooring, couch and bath I chose a timber called Hydrowood because of the story behind it. The fact that the timber has come from deep down at the bottom of a lake captures my imagination. To sit in my bath and think about where the timber has come from is worth a premium.”
In fact, Alice said that she thinks showing Grand Designs the video of Hydrowood being harvested, sealed the deal to have the house feature on the show.
Hydrowood is harvested from a forest that was submerged 50 years ago beneath a man–made lake created for hydro–electricity production.
“I also love the story of the people behind the timber. I know Dave and Andrew. Dave is a pilot, and he was flying over the lake one day and thought, I wonder what is underneath?”
Despite being told it couldn’t be done, the two Tassie entrepreneurs set about finding out how to reclaim the timber. They came up with a world first.
“Hydrowood is such an epic feel–good story – when I went out there to the lake, I was blown away.”
Speaking of things that couldn’t be done, the custom Hydrowood Huon Pine bath took some problem solving.
“I tried to find a local artisan to build the bath, but everyone said it might take a couple of years to get there with a prototype.
The bath is constructed from hundreds of small pieces of Huon Pine, each on a slightly different angle, finger–jointed together.
“In the end, a robot built the bath! It was the first item made with a machine from Germany that turned up at the joiners in a bullet–proof case. I think the process was painstaking, and when I turned up, I could hear them thinking – ‘here’s the girl that wants this crazy bath!”
But Alice says when she’s soaking in the bath full of bubbles, it was worth it.
Inside the cocoon
You won’t find a television in the Alice Hanson house. Instead the focal point is a custom–made hanging fireplace forged from steel by a local blacksmith, and the everchanging landscape.
“I wanted an environment that facilitates conversation when you’re amongst friends, and stillness when you’re not. It’s so nice not having the interruptions from the outside world coming at you through a screen,” says Alice.
To take advantage of the natural theatre outside, a custom–made Tasmanian Oak and leather couch was crafted by Simon Ancher Studio.
“The brief was for a timber–backed couch with a leather finish. The rest was all Simon [Ancher]. I wanted the makers to have a say in how they wanted each piece in my house to look. I put a lot of trust in them. Simon said go Tas Oak, so I did, and the result is spectacular.”
Each piece is designed to work together within the space, so Tasmanian Oak is featured throughout. And, the furniture had to contribute to the functionality of the home. The side tables, by Alan Livermore, are seats, side tables, and storage.
A home is more than a house
The ‘Tasmanian–ness’ of the place goes beyond the exquisite views, the wilderness and the love of home. The people make the island, and they’re as varied as the weather.
“When the crew from Grand Designs were filming, my neighbour came across to see us a couple of times. The first time she turned up with a bunny rabbit on a lead. The second time she arrived holding a pitchfork because she could see that we were working on the garden and wanted to give us a hand.
“The Crew, who are not from here, just couldn’t believe it. The friendliness, the quirkiness, and the willingness to lend a hand. But that’s just Tassie.”
Who lives here: Alice Hansen, Tasmanian writer, who writes about all things Tasmanian, and a Huon pine tree – her only pet.
Interior Designer: Bury, Kirkland & Ferry
Couch: Simon Ancher Studio
Side tables: Alan Livermore
Photography: Adam Gibson
Photography Styling: LUC