Multi-award winning and almost constantly booked-out on Air BnB, The Barn is one of Hobart’s most coveted places to stay – and it’s not hard to see why. Architects and owners Liz Walsh and Alex Neilsen have captured the rustic heritage of the barn impeccably, while bringing it into modern living with material restraint and respect for craftsmanship.
Sitting at the rear of the former Bulls Head Hotel on the Western fringe of Hobart, the sandstone barn was built in the 1820s and had fallen into disuse well before Liz and Alex came across it in 2012. While some may have seen the barn’s small dimensions and raw materials as an obstacle to the conversion, (not to mention hessian sacks that still lined the interior of the building when it was purchased by the couple) Liz and Alex saw these features as the central opportunities. Take the bathroom; originally a wooden-framed horse stall, it was transformed to a small yet dynamic bathroom that acts as a separation between the kitchen and dining area and the reading nook. The mezzanine level, formerly used to store hay, became a cosy bedroom and study area.
The winning formula for this conversion is undoubtably the way Liz and Alex have integrated contemporary elements within the raw foundation of the barn. Instead of a polished sheen over the original build, they have wisely chosen to retain the original fabric of the building while introducing new features that build on this aesthetic. The original palette of sandstone, floorboards and wood panelling continues to define much of the materiality, complimented with white walls and deep, floating-framed windows to emphasise natural light. And of course, what else would the new floorboards be but polished Tasmanian Oak? On the northern side of the home, the large pivot door is a notably modern touch – but again, paired with the rustic materials of the barn itself, it never feels out of place, more a study of contrast.
Simultaneously raw and elegant in aesthetic, The Barn is a masterful take on small scale living and repurposing heritage spaces. For an accommodation option that marries good design with rich craftsmanship, there’s no place in Hobart we’d rather be.
The design embraces the tension between new and old materials, with the gap between the new floorboards and existing stone walls in-filled with black ply to accentuate the narrow space, and the black palette of the kitchen in contrast with the sandstone and warm oak floorboards. Carefully-chosen midcentury and locally made furniture continues to build the barn’s unique character.