Catriona Rowntree took a 90-minute drive from Hobart to Swansea on Tasmania's east coast. She was headed for The Lair, a $2.5 million holiday house on a hill between a forest and the sea. What a treat.
Just as easily reached from Launceston, The Lair is 15km south of Swansea and is reached by driving through meadowlands, forests, coastal promontories and beaches.
It took owner-architect Rick Bzowy four years to create his dream. Just before closing his Melbourne practice he took a year to live in Italy and travel around Europe. On his travels he sketched hundreds of ideas for a house to put on his 17 hectares of forest in Tasmania, and it became a hands-on project.
His inspiration for the name comes from an animal lair, a resting place for wild animals. He thought it would be the perfect place for tame, two-legged animals to totally relax, unwind and absorb the unique ambience.
There are identical suites at either end of the house, each with two bedrooms. They are furnished with emperor-size leather beds, fine linen, blue chip artworks, 116cm plasma screens and adjoining walk-in robes and powder rooms. Huge bathrooms have stoneware baths, porcelain-tiled walls and floors and twin vanities. Ceilings and oiled black acacia floors are heated for total comfort.
The Lair is full of stand-out features. Imagine a 64-jet spa from Canada, three-sided glass slow combustion woodheater from France, Villeroy and Boch china, $45,000 Italian lounge suites and ripples on ceilings are a metaphor for tide markings on the beach.
An outdoor kitchen has a large bench, sink and barbecue and the spa in a sheltered courtyard overlooks the ocean. Views take in Oyster Bay and beyond to The Hazards, Freycinet Peninsula, Wineglass Bay and Schouten and Maria Islands.
There are thoughtful touches, such as 14 different phone chargers just in case you've forgotten yours. There are bound volumes of the Mercury newspaper from 1868. The library is filled with books and games and all the electrical entertainment you could want.
Mini bars are stocked with fresh, local produce and local wines. A complimentary dry pantry is stocked with delicious food from the surrounding area.
Rick will gladly prepare a menu of seasonal produce and regional, national and international wines.
It's a pretty special place to stay any time of year. Deep overhangs shelter the interior from wind, rain and fierce sun and there's the feeling of being outside and inside of the same time.
In winter it's all about turning the lights down, opening a bottle of wine and light the fire as the sun sets behind The Lair.
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