Much of Tasmania’s appeal lies in its wild and woolly landscapes, and on a recent editorial trip we were privileged to experience a range of the island’s most memorable natural spaces, from Lake St Clair to Hobart and now to the Freycinet Coast. In fact it’s the distinctive local landscape that has both informed the design and experience of this outstanding self-catering holiday home in Friendly Beaches, where you really do feel like you’re ‘at the ends of the earth’ in the best possible way.
Owned by Tasmanian local Sam Brewster, Aplite House is an environmentally-friendly and solar passive design surrounded by the Freycinet National Park. Designed by local architect Stephen Geason of Cykel Architecture, the pavilion style layout and angular lines of the home work to both increase the open living feel of the home while providing areas to retreat – just the right balance for a reclusive eco-retreat.
We spoke to Sam to learn more about the design process and construction of the house, and the way it celebrates the Tasmanian environment and local creative culture.
FILM: Tom Graham
When did you first come across the property that would become home to the Aplite House?
For many years my friends and I have been visiting the east coast of Tasmania for camping and exploring. Around the late 90’s I was camping frequently in the Freycinet National Park near Blue Stone Bay, as this area is a great spot for Rock Climbing and there’s some really spectacular Aplite Runners within the smooth granite ocean cliffs.
While driving past I noticed quite a few for sale signs along the Coles Bay Road – all with the same real estate office, so dropped into their office at Swansea on my way home to Hobart. It turned out all the properties were being sold by the same owner, and after inspecting a map of the properties for sale around the Friendly Beaches area I chose 845 Coles Bay Road to have a look at. After walking through the gully and then exploring further I really liked the type of forest, and the fact the property borders the Freycinet National Park on 3 sides, in addition to being near Moulting Lagoon and Friendly Beaches.
At this time I was studying at the Hobart University School of Fine Arts majoring in Sculpture and Furniture Design. As a student, I met Stephen Geason who was studying architecture and as a student designed and made the seat that is still in place at the Saddle of the Wine Glass Bay Walk. Stephen ended up being the architect I chose to design the Aplite House, and the shape and configuration of the house is Stephen’s design.
We intended to build a minimalist house featuring Tasmanian timber and highlighting the functional and aesthetic aspect of fixtures – for example concrete floor, downpipes and guttering – a house that was simple, warm and functional.
How important was environmental sustainability in the development of the house and how did it inform the design process?
The house is a solar passive design, and therefore orientation, sun angle, cross ventilation, insulation and thermal mass were essential technical elements that informed the design process. Being solar passive the house attracts and store heat from the sun in winter and is shaded from direct sun in the summer. There’s a ceiling fan and wood heater to contribute to air circulation and additional warmth, and all fire wood is collected from the property while conducting bush fire management fuel reduction activity.
Material selection, origin and identification to Tasmania have been very important. As much as possible, building materials were sourced locally and with consideration to the embodied energy. The surface finish on the floor is the result of two very dedicated friends/builders who worked for 23 hours burnishing the concrete every hour as it cured. After burnishing its been sealed with Livos (kunos) oil.
The Tasmanian Myrtle timber that the dining table, kitchen benches, entertainment cabinet, book case, beds and bed side table is from one tree, which had fallen on a friends property. I assisted to mill the tree and selected the timber at that time. Even the solid timber block coffee table in the living room was made from dry standing iron bark tree that stood where the house is built.
The house is self sufficient in that it harvests it own water supply that’s stored in two 23000 litre tanks. Additionally the electrical power is off grid solar with a generator back up. The generator is set to automatically switch on when the battery bank storage gets low, additionally its set to turn on automatically on a weekly basis to refresh fuel and charge its own battery. On a yearly basis the generator would roughly only use around 30 litres of fuel, I this most of this is the weekly auto start.
How does the design of the Aplite House reflect the beauty of its natural landscape?
We’ve attempted to fit the house to the immediate environment using colour, texture and material selection.
The colour selection for the house has been influenced by the surrounding bushland; for example the red exterior of the bridging section was chosen from the new growth of the branches on the Iron Bark Eucalyptus surrounding the house. The rough sawn cladding was was selected to age as the trees of the surrounding bush do.
Tell us a little bit about the key artworks and features within the home.
The Tasmanian artists featured around the house are at times circulated with a broader collection (we always keep a compendium for guests of the house to learn more about the current artists on display).
Currently there are two paintings by Ann Menzies, a photographic image by Ian Jeanneret, one work by Leigh Roberts, a print by Raymon Arnold, a digital media print by Tamzen Brewster and an origami framed work by Olivia Bowman. All these artists are based throughout Tasmania.
There’s also two ceramic vessels by Hobart ceramic artist Ben Richardson. Ben gathers his own clay and minerals then makes his glazes from these locally sourced materials and uses wood fired kilns. This connection with place is a strong element of his work.
The bathroom basins and outdoor sand stone sculpture are by Damon Wills. Damon is a Hobart-based Sculptor who uses locally sourced materials in his work – the sand stone for these works is from Buckland, Tasmania.
What are your local recommendations for a trip to the Freycinet Peninsula?
To walk and explore Friendly Beaches, Cape Tourville lighthouse, Wineglass Bay and Sleepy Bay all in the Freycinet National Park.
Visit the Freycinet Marine Farm for some local seafood, and there are plenty of great local vineyards to visit, either self drive or be a passenger with the Long Lunch Tour. Have a coffee and local produce at The Farm Shed in Bicheno or enjoy a wood fired pizza from Tombolo in either of their two locations, Coles Bay or Devils Corner.
Freycinet Adventures take some great sea kayak tours and Wineglass Bay Cruises take a fantastic tour of the Freycinet Penninsula. There’s a glass bottom boat tour in Bicheno and a Penguin Tour. Or just relax at the house.
What do you love most about this part of Tasmania?
The landscape, beaches, wildlife and climate.