A Curated Experience – Slow Beam by Sarah Trotter and Lauren Bamford
Hobart, TAS, Australia
From its vantage point on a steep outcrop, Slow Beam peeps out from among the trees down toward the city of Hobart and the River Derwent below. Surrounded by bush yet gesturing toward the city, Slow Beam is informed by its rare position at the intersection of urban life and rugged native bushland.
The project is the work of photographer Lauren Bamford, her partner, musician Keith Mason, and designer Sarah Trotter, of Hearth Studio. As longtime friends and collaborators, Slow Beam marked an opportunity to explore a vision for a unique accommodation offering that creates a highly curated experience, of design, architecture, and place, for Slow Beam’s guests. This intention was shaped by the site, both its geography and the position adjacent to both bushland and city, Lauren explains. “We wanted the building to be defined by the location and land itself and that has informed the identity,” she says.
The site presented both opportunities and challenges, Sarah explains. “It’s BAL 29, a grade of 30º and the view is to the south,” she says. “Luckily, there was an existing site cut, which we used to avoid further excavation.” To fit within this cut in the sandstone, and to achieve the required aspect and allow light to penetrate the plan, in a simple, effective move, Sarah split and offset the small home into two pavilions at different levels. As a result, the entry, kitchen and dining are separated from the lounge and bedroom. A sense of intentionality is created, as the program comes to be divided by function, and a deeper engagement with the site arises, as the built form steps down in parallel with the contours of the land and frames views at different elevations.
Slow Beam marked an opportunity to explore a vision for a unique accommodation offering that creates a highly curated experience.
Anchored into the bedrock of the site, the dark rectilinear pavilions recede amongst the surrounding bush, offering little indication of the treasures that lie within. Stepping inside, one enters a space that is dark yet vibrant, and utterly intriguing. “Slow Beam is a unique experience, mostly because of its dark interior in which you feel enveloped and focused on the exterior view,” reflects Sarah. “The house’s interior really enables the framing and composition of the views, even in the evening when the house dissolves around you as the lights of Hobart twinkle in the distance and the moon rises in the east. Then, if you draw the curtains, you get to experience the amazing collection of art and furniture.”
Lauren’s experience as a photographer is felt throughout, from the sensitivity to composition to the finishes, furniture and artwork that were selected for impact. The custom-designed carpet by Esther Stewart, a mutual friend of Lauren and Sarah’s, recalls the bold, graphic design language of Italian mid-century modernism, transcending all expectations of simple carpet to become an artwork in its own right. The bathrooms are similarly striking, employing pattern and colour to transform the bathroom from a functional space into an immersive experience of design.
The dark rectilinear pavilions recede amongst the surrounding bush, offering little indication of the treasures that lie within.
Individual pieces were deliberately chosen for their photogenic qualities, Lauren explains. “I intentionally chose the Featherston z3000 chaise to sit by the big window in the lounge, upon that patch of carpet, as I knew it would create a striking first impression and look great in photos,” she says. “The window furnishings were also influenced by my appreciation of natural light – the soft shadows created by sun streaming through sheer curtains, and the hard lines through the Venetian blinds I chose for the bathroom.”
While in many ways the dramatic black-stained ply interior acts as a foil for both the views and the objects within, key architectural details complement the uncompromising vision while alluding to the natural beauty of the site. “The materials we selected were informed by Lauren’s interest in the tension between the dark interior and rich colour as well as a selection of artefacts we collected on that first site visit to the site,” Sarah says. “Redgum leaves, shed bark, chunks of rock, wirey and velvety banksia pods and even a fine back-bone of a wallaby skeleton.”
Bluestone crazy paving lends a subtle midcentury reference while its natural materiality provides a link to the landscape. The black kitchen, meanwhile, is kept low and streamlined, which was made possible by the specification of Fisher & Paykel appliances. “I really wanted this project to be as minimal as possible with the kitchen reading more as furniture than as a full working day-to-day kitchen,” Sarah explains. “The under-counter fridge really made that possible. The CoolDrawers (set as a fridge and freezer) integrated seamlessly under the benchtop. Fisher and Paykel really engaged with the design intent of the project making sure we could use black fixtures and deliver the seamless look to the kitchen.”
Lauren agrees, emphasising that the appliances give equal weight to aesthetics and functionality. “They aren’t the type of appliances where you have to design around them and you can create highly customised spaces, both in terms of layout and materials,” she says. “So much of the design in the house has been about combining aesthetics with functionality and these products allowed us to continue this approach with the Henry Wilson brass handles and stained timber surfaces across the cabinetry, where the DishDrawer and CoolDrawers are placed.” And while the project was years in the making, Lauren reflects that “they were always really responsive and understanding of the process we were going through. Even as months and years went by, we never had to go back over things and explain who we were and what it was we were looking for. Fisher & Paykel were one of our best suppliers in that regard.”
While the project may have had a long gestation, from the initial site visit when Sarah drew the first sketches, the essential qualities of the design remained unchanged, reflecting the clarity of the concept that was carried through to fruition. The result is a project that is highly specific, an expression of place through design and architecture that offers an immersive experience to all who visit.