Jessica and Fred Eggleston have always been ‘those people’ who look at local real estate listings while on holidays, dreaming of a potential weekend escape.
When visiting the Bay of Fires in north-east Tasmania in 2019, the couple and their two young children had only just moved to Tasmania from inner-city Melbourne. They didn’t have a family home yet, but couldn’t resist buying a Binalong Bay property that had been on the market for two years.
‘We couldn’t understand it. Yes, it is the antithesis of a beach house, aka “shack”, and seemed more suited to the highlands or alpine region, but it just made us love her more,’ says Jessica. ‘The house was dark, daggy, tired, and reminiscent of a 1980s sauna (not in a good way), but for fear of sounding cliched, the house had an amazing feel.’
They bought the property the day Tasmania went into lockdown in 2020 with plans to transform it into accommodation, Sabi.
Sabi is the fourth renovation Jessica and Fred (a psychologist and criminologist by trade; and a mechanical engineer with a background in construction and project management, respectively) have personally designed and landscaped, but their first accommodation venture and project modelled on wabi-sabi principles.
Jessica was meant to be taking some time off before the renovation (she’d just completed her doctorate in forensic psychology, had two children within a year, renovated their previous Melbourne home and moved interstate!), but quickly became immersed in the Japanese philosophy.
‘The following months were pure joy for me as I researched all that I could about wabi-sabi philosophy and the underlying principles. I discovered a whole new way of thinking, seeing and being in the world,’ she says.
Everything Jessica previously knew about interiors went out the window, and in came asymmetry, imperfection, incompleteness, and impermanence. ‘My understanding of wabi-sabi now guides me in my life pursuits, my relationships and my view of the world,’ she says.
By 2021, creating Sabi occupied every minute of Jessica and Fred’s weekends. The family would drive two hours to the property every Friday, relying on inflatable mattresses and an esky to get the job done.
‘Our intention wasn’t to undertake all the work ourselves, but we found it challenging to find local trades to assist with aspects of the build, so after a while we made the decision to power on, on our own,’ Jessica says. ‘With only weekends to devote to the project, it was slow going, made only slower by the fact our productivity rate with a three and four year-old, was probably, at best, 60 per cent!’
The interior design of Sabi celebrates negative space, amplified by a limited and cohesive palette inspired by the work of Belgian designer Axel Vervoodt in collaboration with Japanese architect Tatsuro Miki.
Stone pavers made using sand from a local quarry line the living room floor. ‘Each paver was made individually to look like large temple pavers that had been trodden by thousands of pilgrims,’ says Jessica. ‘Much to [the supplier’s] confusion, I requested that the stonemason crumble the edges so that each one was perfectly imperfect and unique!’
Repurposed materials are also used throughout, including a former cider barrel turned into a Japanese-inspired bath with salvaged copper liner.
Spend time at Sabi and you may find it difficult to leave, but just five minutes away are some of the world’s most beautiful beaches including oyster farms, hidden rock pools, and deserted coves.
In the near future Jessica will be offering a wabi-sabi design service, in addition to developing an exclusive collection of pieces for the accommodation.