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A Japanese-Inspired Hideaway In Idyllic Tassie Bushland


Every office has its trendsetter, and the undisputed cool girl in the TDF studio is our art director, Annie Portelli. She first came across this humble little cabin while poring over entries to the Australian House Awards and quickly declared it to be her ‘dream house’. Naturally, the rest of us scrambled to find more info! 

Located off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania on Bruny Island, this Japanese-inspired ‘Hideaway‘ cabin was designed as a place of refuge by local firm Maguire Devine. On Saturday night, the tiny retreat was awarded the Esmond Dorney Award for Best New Residential Architecture, the Barry McNeill Award for Sustainable Architecture, and the Colourbond Award for Steel Architecture in the Tasmanian Architecture Awards. I told you Annie has good taste!

9th July, 2018

A tiny cabin nestled into the magnificent bushland of Bruny Island, off Tasmanian’s southeastern coast. Photo – Robert Maver.

The client wanted the off-the-grid retreat the reflect her love for traditional Japanese architecture. Photo – Robert Maver.

The cabin enjoys unencumbered views out to the natural surrounds. Photo – Robert Maver.

Built with a steeply sloping roof to capture the most sun on the rooftop solar panels allowed the opportunity for a lofted bed, giving the small space a sense of volume. Photo – Robert Maver.

The Bruny Island hideaway was to have no furniture, which informed the overall design. Photo – Robert Maver.

The tiny cabin comes in at just 28-square-metres. Photo – Robert Maver.

Sally Tabart
Monday 9th July 2018

While Tassie may have only gained more cultural traction with ‘mainlanders’ (aka the rest of Australia) in recent years, those born and bred (…or those of us who boarded the ‘Spirit’ every summer of their childhood) have always known there is something particularly special about our southernmost state, traced in a magnificent, rugged coastline, dense with bushland  and with spectacular views from almost any vantage point.  

The brief for small architecture firm Maguire Devine (headed up by Hugh Maguire and Dan Devine) was to place a small, off-the-grid cabin on an idyllic bush block on Bruny Island. With a client who works in a high-stress hospital environment, the tiny timber house was designed as a place of refuge from her busy vocation.

The cabin was to be simple, functional and thoughtfully integrated within the bushland. Keeping the client’s work-life in mind, as well her love of traditional Japanese architecture, Dan and Hugh wanted to ‘create a real sense of otherness, far away from life in a standard plasterboard house or sterile hospitals.’ Lining the cabin’s interiors with soft pine, the architects sought to create a cosy, contemporary environment.

But how to introduce a Japanese aesthetic whilst retaining a connection to the uniquely Australian bush context? ‘Balance’ was a key focus of the design team, itself a signature element across all aspects of Japanese design. Keeping the structure as a simple and pure form allowed it to sit ‘elegantly as an object in the landscape’, explains Dan, whilst external materials reference the ‘rural vernacular of architecture in the region’.

Responding to the challenging site lined with tall, dense bush to the North, Dan and Hugh opted for a steep roof to lift solar panels and a skylight high to catch the sun. This added height and volume to the building, allowing the design to go vertical, with a lofted bed accessible by a ladder.

As if living off-the-grid wasn’t tricky enough, the cabin was to be a space with no furniture, ‘shoes off and sitting on the floor’. As a result, the architects approached the cabin ‘as a piece of furniture, with everything [the client] needs built in as part of the whole’.

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