Slick, private and as unexpected as can be – Hatherley House is a true Tasmanian devil, writes Aimee Leabon.
One could, in all fairness, be forgiven for assuming Hatherley House to be a bit musty.
You know… a place of winding staircases, secret passageways and draughty halls; of small rooms and creaky floorboards. It is, after all, “an 1830’s grand mansion listed on the National Estate Register”, according to the website. Moreover it’s in Launceston which, although very beautiful, is hardly the epicentre of the accommodation industry. How good can this place be?
“My wife and I stayed there the night of our wedding, you’ll love it,” assures James Welsh, sommelier at local swanky restaurant Stillwater, as he pours me a glass of shiraz. (One needs to pluck up a little courage to stay in a haunted – sorry, heritage – house, don’t they?)
There has been a bit of local buzz surrounding Hatherley House, he tells me, thanks to the extensive renovations undertaken by local architects Jack and Rebecca Birrell. The husband-and-wife team reopened the mansion just last year, after a 12-month restoration period which saw the house go from nine rooms to just two, and business has been good ever since.
Not that its exterior gives much away. A tall box hedge and a black, wrought iron fence surround the perimeter, completely concealing the house from the road. I pull into the gated driveway and punch in the access code (which was emailed to me after booking) – a nicely modern touch – and wait for the gates to slide open. I admit, the suspense is not killing me.
But I take back every word once I’m inside.
The manicured gardens, the gorgeous colonial frontage, the softly lit trees… Why didn’t someone say something?
I’m booked into The Ballroom suite which yes, was the house’s actual ballroom back in the day.
I wrestle my suitcase up the narrow set of stairs to the top floor – the suites are not staffed (where’s a servant when you need one?), then enter a second access code beside the suite’s beautiful French doors. (It all feels more than a touch 007.) And then… I’m felled in a single glance.
Where are the musty mothballs? The poorly-lit corners? The bedside doilies, put out by a well-intentioned ‘stylist’? This is the total opposite: unique, personal, modern; well thought out.
I’ve been ambushed.
To one side is an Italianate marble fireplace, topped by an ornate gilt mirror. Luxe antique chairs are on another, sitting beneath a scarlet chandelier. Soft lighting, plush carpets and crimson accents give the room an aristocratic feel. And the king bed (which I immediately launch myself onto) feels rather like something I’d luxuriate on in a top New York hotel, rather than the banana-bed mattress of most country town lodgings.
But then, Hatherley House is hardly your average country town lodging, in much the same way that Launceston is not your average country town. There’s a hand-painted feature wall here.
A beautifully cultivated English rose garden out those large windows. Exquisite framed artwork inspired by contemporary dance company TasDance, of which Jack and Rebecca are patrons and philanthropy board members. Kudos to them – this is a beautiful little hideaway.
It’s also beautifully self-contained. The mini-bar fridge is stocked with breakfast provisions such as bircher muesli, fresh OJ, Tasmanian milk, yoghurt and a fruit compote – by esteemed local chef Daniel Alps – to enjoy on your private balcony. The wi-fi is complimentary. Apple TV is loaded with the latest music and movies.
And the tiles in the bathroom are heated. Feeling like a duchess, I sink into the 8-jet spa bath and don’t emerge for an hour. There mightn’t be on-site staff here, but a secluded night in surroundings like this is fine by me.
Everyone needs a little private time…
The epitome of modern opulence. The Hatherley manages to achieve regal appeal without being pretentious. It’s stylish, but cosy.
The keyless entry system.
Nothing, but the option of room service would have been nice.
43 High St, Launceston. Located in East Launy, it’s about a 10-minute walk to cute cafés, shopping arcades and upmarket restaurants in the city centre.
Suites from $240 per night (including breakfast); Aimee paid $320 for The Ballroom suite. Hatherley House is part of the ‘Hatherley Birrell Collection’, which includes two other properties.
0458 947 727; hatherley.com.au