I had been anticipating the 2021 Open House Hobart weekend for weeks. As usual, my sister and I had booked in for several tours across Saturday and Sunday, and we had a lot to look forward to.
Our first tour on Saturday was Tate House in Taroona, which was built in 1958, designed by Esmond Dorney for the current owner, Erik’s, uncle, who lived there for many years.
The Open House description of the house says
Tate House sits above the river’s edge with 180 degree views of the estuary, along with the hills and bays of the far shore. The immediate foreground, originally beach and boat sheds, is now slightly masked by later development. The house is a continuation of the form and structural technology of the Dorney Shack (1957) and the Young (Butterfly) House of 1958. With immediate street frontage, this design needed to find a different solution from those two projects to ensure privacy in a developing suburban context. Allied to some solid panels, a slightly deeper setback allows the garden to mask the glazing. The form itself responds directly to the hills on the eastern horizon, offering a relaxed logic to the street view.
In 2019, the current owners commissioned Preston Lane Architects to carefully restore the existing house and update the interiors, maintaining the essence of the original building while also accommodating the changing needs of the clients, allowing them to age in place.
Paddy Dorney spoke of how much planning went into the restoration project and of the passion of Erik, the architects, and the builders, who all worked to maintain the integrity of Esmond’s design while updating it to reflect the occupants’ needs. He noted the care and attention that James, the builder, who was also there for the tour, had put into the project.
The downstairs section wasn’t part of Esmond’s original design and it was deliberately designed to not look like his work.
Part of the redesign was to include an internal staircase, so that people didn’t have to go outside to get upstairs. It’s a beautiful addition, sympathetic to the design but not trying to replicate it.
I walk past this house often and never knew the downstairs area was there because you can’t see it from the street. I’d thought the house looked so small and wondered how it was possible to live in it.
Learning about the flow-on design from the shack and the way downstairs was incorporated later, it all made sense.
I’d also been watching the renovations from the outside and, even though my first impression when seeing the house stripped back was to be horrified, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would do anything to a Dorney house that hadn’t been well considered and in keeping with its origins.
It’s beautiful work and the house looks wonderful. It’s a simple but very clever design with lovely attention to detail. It seems to just fit the space perfectly as well as take advantage of the wonderful river views.