Category Archives: residential

open house hobart: kaljuvee house

Continuing our Open House Hobart weekend quest to visit Esmond Dorney designs, Lil Sis and I stopped in at Kaljuvee House in Lenah Valley.

This is one in a series of “missing” Dorneys, apparently discovered derelict by the current owners and no one had known it was there.

Kaljuvee House, Lenah Valley

This house was built in 1952 so it’s one of his earlier works in Tasmania. It’s a beautiful space and very much original. The owner, Kate, said the only significant modification they had done was to extend the kitchen a little to be able to fit a dishwasher and more than one person.

The fire place hiding the study/office space

It’s distinctly a Dorney but has some features I’ve not seen on other houses, such as the slats over the front windows, which Kate says serve no purpose at all, and this curved ladder-like structure near the entry door, which she says makes it easy to get onto the roof and remove leaves from the gutter.

The entrance to the house

The Open House website says

This building may be one of Hobart’s great secrets: the house is perched above a quarry face far below the street level and is invisible from any public space. As dramatic proof of the legitimacy of this urban myth, it was discovered in poor condition by the current owners, as no one knew it was there! Now beautifully restored, this is its first public outing.


Approached by a stairway that winds from the street high above, two pavilions – one private and one social – are defined by a partial level change and a butterfly of two opposing skillion rooves. An expressed skeletal structure wraps the portico entrance and shades the fully glazed northern wall which opens to a stunning panorama of the River Derwent and the hills of the Midlands. The open living space (masked by a wall planter Scarpa would be proud of) soars over the garden and into the landscape.

Kaljuvee House from the street

It has a beautiful outlook and a lovely garden. I think I could live here but Kate says she’s not moving out any time soon.

open house hobart: macquarie street

Open House Hobart weekend was held on 13-14 November, with a fascinating range of buildings open for tours and drop-ins.

After our Taroona Esmond Dorney buildings, we were supposed to take part in the Modern Hobart City walking tour, which I was super excited about, but unforeseen circumstances meant it had been cancelled earlier in the week, so we had some free time before our next Dorney house. We decided to wander along Macquarie Street and see what we could find

The National Mutual Life Building at 119 Macquarie Street was open, we think for the first time

119 Macquarie Street. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it on the day, so here’s one I prepared earlier

Open House tells us this about it.

This six-storey neo-Gothic sandstone building in the centre of Hobart has been a prominent part of the Hobart city landscape since its construction in 1906. The National Mutual Life Association (founded in Melbourne in 1869) commissioned prominent Hobart-born architect, Alan Cameron Walker, to design their Hobart offices. Walker was born in 1865 and apprenticed under the well-known Tasmanian architect, Henry Hunter. The stone facade and carved bas-reliefs of the building are of particular note, and feature a lion and unicorn flanking the company logo above the entrance on Macquarie Street. The building now houses a number of commercial tenancies, with the third and fourth floors being occupied as a residence.

I’ve always been intrigued by this building, especially the turret on the roof, and it sits nicely next to one of my favourite buildings, the Reserve Bank.

It was raining when we got to the roof top and my first impression was of the brilliant view it had of the two beautiful modernist buildings on the corner of Murray and Collins Street, Jaffa and the T&G Building. Who cares about the rain here?

Superb view from the roof

I was so excited by the view I almost forgot about the turret (I don’t know if that’s the actual term, I’m sure it’s not).

It also sits nicely against the Reserve Bank so you can reach out and touch it.

Should you wish to do so.

A different perspective of the Reserve Bank building

There was once a rooftop cafe up here, complete with deck chairs, which looks like it would have been a fabulous use of the space. We need more rooftop cafes!

The top floor of the building had recently been vacated and was empty, ready for refurbishment.

How good is this skylight?!

It was such a wonderful space and very hard not to notice all the lead lighting throughout, which is thought to have been an 1970s addition.

Every house needs a door with a ship on it

I wasn’t the only person expressing a wish to live here.

Wonderful colours
The door handles embossed with the National Mutual Life logo that also sits above the front door

On the other side of the Reserve Bank were two apartments at 105 Macquarie Street, “Polly” and “Henry”, which are recent transformations of former office spaces into short stay accommodation.

105 Macquarie Street. Another one from the archives.

They were both very different in look and feel, and Polly had super views of the other side of the Reserve Bank.

The other side of the Reserve Bank building

These spaces were designed by Preston Lane, who had done the Tate House restoration, and one of the things we noticed was how a huge artwork had been incorporated into one of Polly’s walls. Apparently this had inspired Erik at Tate House to do the same thing in his bedroom in Taroona. It looked really cool. And I wasn’t able to get any photos of it, but this post will give you the idea.

We didn’t get much time here as we had an appointment with another Dorney house further out of the city. Onward!

open house hobart: tate house

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.

Tate House in June 2020 before the restoration work

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.

Tate House, November 2021

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 front of the house

The downstairs section wasn’t part of Esmond’s original design and it was deliberately designed to not look like his work.

The new, simple staircase

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.

Use of glass to extend the partition walls on the upper level to the ceiling

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.

Tate House entrance

Learning about the flow-on design from the shack and the way downstairs was incorporated later, it all made sense.

Back deck

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.

The refreshed kitchen windows from the back deck

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.

Back deck detail

open house hobart 2020: blue magnolia

My second tour of the 2020 Open House Hobart weekend was Blue Magnolia on Molle Street.

Some of the external timber work

This is a hidden away little 1840s cottage that is an absolutely tiny space (and, therefore, almost impossible to photograph, especially with a 50mm lens, which is the lens I have restricted myself to using for 50 days, having not considered that this weekend was coming up when I decided to do it). Nevertheless, it has been photographed very beautifully (not by me, obviously).

We were lucky enough to have one of the architects responsible for the redesign, Rosa, to show us through and answer our questions.

She said the building had been two row houses, which as far as we could tell were an upstairs room and a downstairs room each, with massively thick stone walls between them.

One of the original entrances

Kitchen? Nope. Bathroom? Nope. Basically, it sounded like living there would be like camping in a stone cottage. Now the two houses were one and there actually was a kitchen and a bathroom.

Rosa explained that there had been some 1970s additions to the house, which had been removed and replaced with the new extensions in 2017.

Stone wall inside and out

It really is cool how much they have managed to fit into such a tight space behind the existing houses on the street. The bathroom is fabulous, with the clear roof and views of the city.

Blue sky views from the bathroom

The extensions have lots of beautiful timberwork and there are doorways punched through the stone walls. The whole space fits together really nicely and it doesn’t feel as small as it is.

External wall

Clearly, a space like this has insufficient space for bookcases, so I could never live there. But it would be a lovely retreat space for a few days.

open house hobart: the finale

Sunday 10 November 2019

part 1: supreme court

part 2: construction house & jarvis house

part 3: town hall, carnegie building & henry jones

part 4: riverfront motel

part 5: penitentiary chapel

part 6: treasury

After our tour of the Treasury complex and a quick sugar hit, Lil Sis and I made the drive out to Sandy Bay to visit our second Dorney house of the weekend, the house at Fort Nelson.

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Esmond Dorney House, Fort Nelson

Perched on top of one of the fort’s old gun emplacements, this iconic 1978 house is a must-see on the Open House weekend. It’s about a 15-minute walk uphill, or you can wait for the shuttle bus, which is what we did.

I think I have this bit right. The first house that Esmond Dorney built on the site was in 1949, on the southern gun emplacement.

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The flat out the back

He built a second house in 1966 on the current site, which burnt down in a bushfire caused by a neighbour’s burn-off. He replaced that in 1978 with the current house, which survived another bushfire that burnt the 1949 building.

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Underneath the fort

The ABC recently featured the house in a tour with architect Leigh Woolley.

There are many cool things about this house. The view, obviously. (Not the wind.)

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How good is the view

This wall.

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So cool

The hidden bedrooms. And of course, the sunken lounge, the conversation pit.

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Conversation pit

It was a fabulous way to end the weekend, sitting in the conversation pit listening to Paddy Dorney speak about his father’s work.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising it and all the fabulous volunteers on the weekend. It was one of the highlights of the year for me.

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In and out

Open House Hobart 2019:

  • 11 buildings
  • 1 walking tour
  • 48,000 steps
  • 392 photos

PS: A couple of weeks after the weekend, I found out one of my photos of the Riverfront Motel had been chosen as a winner of the OHH Instagram competition, which was very exciting and entirely unexpected.

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Glorious colours from the Riverfront Motel

open house hobart day 1 part 2

Part 1: Supreme Court

After our tour of the Supreme Court, Lil Sis and I had some time in town before our next tour so we rushed through three buildings in quick succession. The crypt at St David’s Cathedral, which sounded a bit grim but turned out to be a couple of small underground storerooms. At least we know what’s down there now.

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St David’s Cathedral crypt

Next stop was City Hall in Macquarie Street, which is a very cool building dating back to 1915.

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City Hall, Macquarie Street

Last time I was there it was full of rallying unionists. Today, it was empty. We had access to the caretaker’s cottage and the roof so there were some good views across the city and some potentially interesting photo opportunities.

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City Hall, interior

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City Hall, rooftop

Construction House on Bathurst Street is an awesome example of mid-20th century modernist architecture, and that was where we headed next.

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Construction House

It was designed by the architects Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon and built in 1956. I recently learned it was originally their offices before the Department of Education moved in. It is known for the massive rubber plant that grows up the staircase and for the beautiful mosaic by Max Angus on the front. I also recently learned that the original building only had three levels, with the other two added later.

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Staircase + rubber plant

My dentist operates out of this building, after the building that previously housed his practice at 173 Macquarie Street (also, coincidentally, designed by Bush Parkes Shugg and Moon) was demolished to make way for the Ibis hotel. I’ve never been as good at remembering to go to the dentist as I am now. I have a theory, after seeing other dentist practices in beautiful modernist buildings, that dentists operate out of lovely buildings to encourage their clients to visit regularly.

Today, thankfully, was not a dentist visit and we had access to the staircase and the rooftop, which was great because of the views and the chance to see the rubber plant all the way up.

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Construction House staircase

We didn’t stay long because we had another tour booked in Bellerive and had to leave for that. This was the Jarvis House, which is one of the many sensational houses designed by Esmond Dorney. This one is from 1959.

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Esmond Dorney drawings for the Jarvis House

The owner of the house, Carol, was recently featured on an ABC radio segment about the house and as I was listening to it, I was wishing I could actually see what they were talking about. Today was that opportunity.

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Jarvis House

It’s a lovely house with great views (which would be much improved by removing the tree over the road . . . . ) but if you go over the road the outlook across the river to kunanyi is breathtaking.

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View from Bellerive across the river

It was worth the trip just for that and the house was a bonus! One interesting feature of the house is the way the ceiling actually slopes downwards towards the back of the house, which isn’t immediately obvious until someone points it out to you. (Look at the drawing!)

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How gorgeous are these curves!

It’s been (sympathetically) extended over the years and Carol has been very passionate about keeping it consistent with its original form. It really is remarkable and I am very grateful that Carol was so willing to share it with us.

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Jarvis House front deck

So that was our Open House morning, with much more to look forward to in the afternoon and the next day.