Fancy Free – The Isla Motel by Those Architects

Words by Sarah Sivaraman
Architecture by Those Architects
Photography by Anson Smart
Interior Design by Those Architects
Styling by Coco Republic
Landscape by Svalbe & Co
Landscape by Brendan Moar

Batemans Bay lies on Yuin Country on the dreamy South Coast of New South Wales. The region is known for its glistening blue coastline, oyster farms and now, The Isla – a boutique motel designed by Those Architects.

The Isla’s bones belong to the 1970s-built Abel Tasman Motel that, even in its heyday, was a mere pitstop for those road tripping along the coast. Without a budget for a structural redesign, the overhaul of the building required out-of-the box thinking, along with impactful interventions by builders Monarch Building Solutions. Harnessing the iconic feel of the 1970s but dialling up the style, Those Architects has created a destination motel, the atmosphere of which is equal parts nostalgia and zeitgeist.

A dusty orange trim on the exterior doors and window frames nods enthusiastically to days gone by.

The building’s façade has been painted in a warm white, as have the concrete breeze blocks that line the ground floor walkway. A dusty orange trim on the exterior doors and window frames nods enthusiastically to days gone by. Inside, oak-panelled bedheads, generous linen curtains and CHUB stools used as bedside tables feel 21st century and very much of the moment.

The interiors of The Isla have resisted the trap of retro kitsch with contemporary furniture, conveniently located power points and USB ports, and sleek kitchenettes. Yet, the rooms – however modern and convenient – remain consistent with the overall feel through touches like terrazzo splashbacks and amber glassware.

Breaking with the tradition of musty anonymity that is so easily conjured up by the word ‘motel’, The Isla is a place full of playful, personal touches – from the wibbly-edged mirrors and smoky blue-tiled stairs, all the way to the Cantina. The Cantina is The Isla’s fresh take on a hotel mini bar and offers custom vending machines with a curated collection of locally sourced drinks and snacks. Meanwhile, the garage of the Abel Tasman Motel has been cleverly converted into a poolside cabana. The pool (a new addition) is skirted by cool green deck chairs and umbrellas, along with palms, succulents and local costal foliage, courtesy of Svalbe & Co and Brendan Moar.

More than old or new, fun seems to be the focus at The Isla. The motel inspires a sense of escapism. It invites you not just to dream about but to live out hot summer road trips, lazy, breezy afternoon naps and balmy nights drinking cocktails by the pool. It makes a strong case for leisure time.