A feat of both contemporary design and heritage restoration, Captain Kelly’s Cottage by John Wardle Architects is a 320-square-metre structure at the base of a small farm, perched atop the cliff’s edge overlooking the rugged Tasmanian coastline. A weatherboard cottage originally constructed in the 1840s (speculated to have been built by various ship hands during the whaling off-season), maritime explorer Captain James Kelly originally gifted this house to his daughter. Since then, the small cottage has seen many ‘unsympathetic alterations’ before the Wardle family purchased the land and property in 2002.
Over many years of meticulous research that included poring over detailed logbooks, original diaries and tracking through libraries, John slowly peeled back the history of the cottage to piece together the narrative of its original owners, and in 2016 embarked upon its latest alteration. The result is an exquisite example of design that simultaneously recalls a rich history of over 175 years, whilst also looking forward to a contemporary future.
The original cottage comprised two structures: bedrooms and kitchens, surrounded by a wide verandah. Retaining the integrity of these original parts, John and his expert team spliced in a new living area with its floors, walls and ceiling crafted entirely out of Tasmanian Oak, and custom furniture pieces such as a writing desk and coffee table were created out of the leftover materials. Portuguese fabric covers the cushions on the window seats looking out to a heartbreaking panaromic views, curtain textiles and ceramics from John’s extensive collection are from Japan, reflecting a modern day interpretation of possible discoveries from Captain James Kelly’s journeys across the seas.
Stepping over the threshold from the dramatic yet refined new living space into the old section of the cottage, housing the bedrooms, feels like stepping back in time. Painstakingly stripped-back layers of paint reveal the original wall colours, matched to precision by Dulux. In some parts original markings are revealed, and in others small windows of yellowed newspaper clippings are left visible, pulling visitors back into the cottage’s past.