Dreams into a Reality – Renovating a Shack in Tasmania
All photos copyright Claire Lloyd
Claire Lloyd and Matthew Usmar have turned a new dream into a reality by renovating an original shack on Lettes bay, Strahan, Tasmania. They are the first people to be featured in a new series called Dreams into a Reality, where people have a dream and share with us how they make it a reality.
It’s one of my favourite things to celebrate dreams that come true!
So over to Claire and Matthew who share with us the steps along the way, the difficulties and the joy.
How did you come to find a shack on the waterfront in Strahan, Tasmania and what inspired you and your partner to buy it?
Several years ago, I bought a beautiful ceramic bowl in Sydney. I was so taken with the bowl that I tracked down it’s maker, Zsolt Faludi and I decided to travel to Tasmania to meet him.
This was my first trip to Tasmania, I travelled from Hobart to the Huon Valley and then along the East coast to Launceston. I fell in love with this amazing part of the world.
I wanted so much to share my experience with Matthew, my partner, so the following year we took the trip together, but this time decided to explore the wild, West Coast.
I booked the Captain’s Rest, a divine miner’s cabin in Strahan for a couple of nights and we headed there from Launceston.
We arrived in Lettes Bay on a warm sunny late January afternoon and as we stood at the water’s edge surrounded by charming miner’s cottages and resident ducks I said to Matthew, ‘What do we need to do to get a place here?’
That was it, all I had to do was ask the question.
Matthew wandered off and within an hour returned with news that he had been speaking to a man with a cabin to sell.
It didn’t seem possible, but it was, and we didn’t think twice.
Matthew worked together with a local builder to put Bushy Summers back together in a new exciting way, what was one of the joys for him in working on this project from start to finish?
Matthew is an artist and is multi-talented, so this was a wonderful project for him. He worked with the guidance of Trevor, a local builder and a real character. They worked well together, and Matthew learnt a lot from him but when Trevor stopped at the end of the day, went missing in action or to another job Matthew kept going. He was like a man obsessed. Through his new learned skills, he quickly discovered he had the ability to do most things.
Matthew loves creating and for him this was a new kind of creating and it made him proud, the house is very much his.
I know you have such a beautiful vision when it comes to homes, what was the feeling you wanted to create in this sweet cabin?
I never stray from my vision which is based on light, space, and simplicity.
So, they were my basics. My aim then was to create charm and cosiness with views from as many parts of the cabin as possible.
It’s a small cabin so the space needs to flow easily from one room to another.
The view out to the bay is spectacular, with enormous skies and lots of water and it was important to incorporate it into the cabin.
We achieved this by putting in a slightly larger window out to the bay and mirrored this window with an internal window between the sitting-room and the bedroom. You can lie in bed and look out to the water and beyond.
We reused an existing door and converted it into a stable door so when the weather is warm it can be opened for an extended view and fresh air.
When you have a dream, it seems everyone else has an opinion. Did people think you were mad renovating a place in Tasmania?
People always have an opinion that’s one of life’s joys. I only ever go on my gut feeling, as does Matthew, so we didn’t give any attention to opinions.
What has been one of the great joys for both of you in bringing back to life this sweet piece of Australian architecture.
I think the joy was in the doing. The journey is always the most exciting.
We worked so hard together on Bushy Summers, Matthew even more so. Working like this brings a closeness, it’s been a lovely collaboration.
We worked for months and months through some shocking weather. We bought a lovely old caravan and put it next to the shack, which is where we slept. The caravan had no electricity and only a bucket to pee in at night. Some nights it was so cold I could have wept. Other nights the wind would rock the caravan so hard that we thought we would end up in the bay. But then there were beautiful calm moments when you’d open your eyes and have a front seat to the most amazing sunrises in the world. It was a big adventure. When we look at the results we are so, so happy. We have a story about every part of the house, these stories will amuse and entertain us forever.
I love your love of details and both of you have put so much love and care into the place. What are a couple of your secrets to making it a unique nurturing space?
The first thing is making the space flow well and getting in as much light as possible. Having little places inside where you can lie or sit with a book in the sunshine is a definite must. The fabrics you use are important. I have always been a lover of beautiful natural fabrics. At Bushy Summers we have used hand dyed velvets, linens, wool and good quality cottons. Our delicious linen sheets are from Bedtonic, they are divine to sleep under. It can get very cold so we have lovely quilts and blankets so you can snuggle up.
Matthew has incorporated some of his wonderful art, paintings and pieces he has made, along with found objects add another layer to the look.
We love welcoming guests and sharing our special place and you will always find a bottle of Tasmanian wine and some local bread, jam and eggs waiting for you.
All photos copyright Claire Lloyd
Any advice for someone who has a dream and wants to take needs to take the first step towards turning it into a reality?
Just do it, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, if you honestly feel it in your heart, go for it!
You can enjoy Matthew and Claire’s beautiful work and the view on lette’s bay via AIRBNB HERE
Huge thanks to Claire and Matt for sharing their joy with us.
PS, you may also enjoy this read about A GREEK ISLAND HOME by the same clever couple