Hobart, Australia: I still live here. This small city at the ends of the earth has been my home for five years now, and I feel a deeper connection to it every year. Stronger relationships, deeper knowledge of the town and its history… I’m invested, damn it, and I love getting to stickybeak at unexpected corners during Open House Hobart. Just like I saw last year, there’s something for everybody who likes to poke around buildings.
Quick mention for the non-Australians: Hobart dates back to the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, which throughout the 19th century was pretty goddamn grim in Tasmania. As such, there are a good many fine colonial structures remaining in Hobart, most of them retrofitted with mod cons. (I had my Australian citizenship ceremony at the Italianate-styled Hobart Town Hall, which was quite a special setting.) Since Tasmania’s history is such a defining element of this island state, there is a lot of printing ink spent on the convicts and historic buildings within it. Maybe I’m just an ingrate American but the colonial stuff doesn’t particularly grab me.*
Nah, I like seeing how modernity works with those colonial foundations. How you can preserve ~Historic Character~ and increase the functionality of a space. How modern needs and desires can be met in buildings that weren’t designed for them.
(*You have to visit the Port Arthur Historic Site if you’ve never been to Tasmania, though. It’s the abandoned ruins of a 19th-century British penal colony, and does not hold back on the depressing reality.)
Description: “After years of neglect, the sub-floor basement of this heritage-listed Victorian Regency building in the heart of Hobart has been brought back to life with an additional flexible boardroom, office and function space.”
It was cool to see something created from nothing, and the hidden treasures of an otherwise forgotten basement (those sandstone walls!). Its only natural light comes in through a stairwell window, so the novelty would wear off if you were here day after day. Overall, I was impressed that they created multiple areas within the basement. There’s an office, function room, bathroom and full kitchen with a bar. The carpet and gas fire added literal warmth to a space that could feel dingy for most of the year. And the black ceiling seemed to say, that’s right, this is a basement with low ceilings, love me for who I am or don’t.
Description: “The Brickworks Design Studio is where built environment professionals and style conscious renovators go for the latest in brick, clay, stone and timber products. The modular fit out is a good example of adaptive reuse in a heritage context.”
Each Brickworks Design Studio around Australia – operated by Austral Bricks – deals in bricks, outdoor tiles and cladding. This goes for both people in the trade (architects, interior designers) and for Joe Homeowner who’s thinking about an extension. The display cabinets, with each drawer full of samples, was cleverly done. The movable timber island cabinets with raised countertops were gorgeous yet practical. Jamie and I enjoyed chatting to the staff.
It’s a sleek, whitewashed space by the waterfront that gets plenty of natural light… and seeing the architects’ meeting room filled me with the desire to step it up and become a PROFESSIONAL. Not the amorphous creative I am presently, with multiple freelance gigs and very real doubts of success. I’m talking professional recognition and a spotless office that the cleaners make gleam every night. You know – being a creative with money and prestige. The kind of creative that my family could feel at ease about.
Decluttering a space, using multipurpose furniture and whitewashing the walls goes a long way towards brightening dim colonial buildings.
Description: “Back by popular demand, Chris Clinton’s reconfiguration of a simple shop into a two-bedroom unit, the award-winning New Town Road House! Originally built in 1962 as a boot maker’s shop, the building is now an exemplar of how much space and comfort can be achieved within the constraints of a tiny site…. A fascination with raw materials – both new and recycled – is evident throughout. Carefully framed views, curious and interactive details and low-energy consumption all result in a model for small-space, inner urban living.”
This house also inspires me deeply, but in a different way than the Brickworks Studio. I visited it last year and I had to come back, because this dude is always busy and I wanted to see what had changed. HOLY CRAP he designed and built everything he could in here. Chatty guy, too – he was happy to hang out in the kitchen and answer everybody’s multitude of questions.
I talked about it more in-depth on last year’s Open House Hobart post, but in brief: this is a tiny, former fish-and-chip shop turned into a modernised 2-bed home. This time, the top two floors were both finished and the basement bedroom was nearing completion. Many of the materials were salvaged or bought in bulk, like a shipping container filled with Tasmanian oak and myrtle that provided enough luscious red myrtle to clad his entire office in it. Was there a rainbow leading to that container?? Because hot damn.
The raw materials and craftsmanship provide an organic touch to his hyper-modern renovation, so much so that you feel curious rather than alienated. The fact that he designed and carried out so much of this renovation himself is a huge inspiration, not to mention being a reminder to get off my keister and do more with my own surroundings.
Chris also has killer taste in furnishings!! I was DYING over the vintage lights and decor throughout.
Description: “This 1930s house showcases exquisite decorative details from the Art Deco period, while embracing new technologies of the era, with modern architectural ideas such as clean horizontal lines and open planning.“
After visiting several modern fitouts, this house felt very homey to me. My SIL Kylie used to live in a 1942 Deco house, so all the details reminded me of the afternoons we spent there. The fireplace, the valances, the double-brick walls, even the peachy paint colour. This house didn’t have the stamp of design professionals, though. It was just an ordinary pre-war home with thoughtful choices by the homeowners throughout regarding preservation vs. modernisation.
I love looking at broad architectural solutions, but seeing the quiet piecemeal achievements of a family living in their own home is more of a direct inspiration on me. The most memorable aspect of this house for me (and the #1 idea I’m definitely going to steal) was in the kitchen. They’d redone their galley kitchen by reusing the dated 1980s beveled country-style doors, which were solid blackwood, and having them sliced into thin veneers which they could apply to any other cabinetry. The resulting flat-paneled blackwood doors were gorgeous! Now I REALLY want to pick up one of the many cast-off blackwood kitchens on Gumtree that get replaced by melamine.
I also love that they kept the glass bricks in the kitchen window. One of the details of the era left intact.
Description: “This is a handsome Inter-war home with an enlightened addition by Core Collective. The project retains some original spaces, while completely upgrading the building’s amenity.”
Speaking of 1930s homes… this house had the full makeover from top to tails. Spaces were opened up, surfaces were re-clad, and a striking concrete deck was created on top of the garage. A lot of houses aren’t great for layout flow or natural light, or at least based on what I saw when we were looking for one. So it felt right that it’d been opened and expanded in places to facilitate conversation. (I could believe it when meeting the homeowner – he was bustling about, warmly greeting everyone he encountered.)
The concrete deck with an inbuilt fireplace felt SO LUXE, especially with that peach of a view. Being out there makes you wish you’d get invited to the homeowner’s summer BBQs. Once again, I liked seeing the design approach to a space – the clean lines of the renovation fit in with the severe profile and minimal ornamentation of the red-brick house.
So that was it for my Open House Hobart lookie-loos this year! There are 40+ sites open on the weekend, and I only got to go on the Saturday (which meant I missed out on Dorney House AGAIN) but of those five, I can see that I gravitated towards looking at the sites where heritage and modern coexist.
A sincere thank-you to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and of course the property owners that let everyone in! Open House Hobart is an incredibly cool event and I reckon lots of other Hobartians appreciate it too. Check out all the buildings here.
Like modernist decor? Like letterpress? Check out Casa Saltbush on Etsy.