‘How beautiful is the whole region, for form, and grouping, and opulence, and freshness of foliage, and variety of colour, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the promontories; and then, the splendour of the sunlight, the dim, rich distances, the charm of the water-glimpses!’
So are the words of Mark Twain, following his visit to Hobart in 1895.
Step onto the front verandah of Lumière Lodge in West Hobart and imagine those times gone by. Dating to 1890, one wonders who wandered the wide street on which she stands and who paused to visit her occupants on brisk winter evenings. Did a lantern cast a welcoming glow at her front door, or did her occupants huddle quietly within, retreating from the dangers that lurked in the gullies beyond?
Sam and Kerran Langley have wondered those very same things. The young Hobart couple married just two years ago and subsequently threw themselves into a transformation of epic proportions. “It’s been all consuming,” says Sam evenly. “We’ve put in 80-90 hours per week on top of our full time jobs in order to get it done. But it’s been worth every moment.”
With the end product being a boutique accommodation offering, Sam and Kerran’s labour of love is now available for all to enjoy. If you’re looking to be whisked away into the history and romance of old Hobart Town, this is just the place. An immersive experience, you’ll feel time stop still the moment you cross the threshold. Watch the seasons whisper through graceful antique windows, spend an evening by the roaring fire – whisky in hand of course – and soak away the hours in the clawfoot bath. It’s all here and it’s simply divine.
After keeping a keen eye on the local property market for a couple of years, this determined couple jumped as soon as the enchanting Victorian home in West Hobart came on the market. “It caught our attention straight away,” recalls Sam. “We drove by as soon as we could and were lucky enough to find the owner out pottering in the front garden. She was lovely and showed us through herself right then and there.”
In a now trendy bohemian enclave, just 15 minutes’ walk to the city centre, the charming weatherboard residence was likely one of the first properties on its wide tree-lined West Hobart street. “Turn the clock back 130 years and things would have been quite different as the suburb had just begun to spring up, however today’s guests are right on the doorstep of North Hobart’s wine bars and top restaurants, a short wander to the CBD, and can easily stroll down and jump on the MONA ferry. That’s pretty hard to beat,” says Sam.
Kerran picks up the design story. “The property needed a lot of work. We spent hours working on the design before even lifting a finger,” she explains. “By the time it came to put pen to paper for our plans we pretty much had it sorted within a week. After extensive research, observing the light and moods of the property, and having a really clear vision, we knew exactly what we wanted. A rewarding partnership with Design East followed, bringing the bare bones back to life and shaping a new future.”
“We love the play of light and shadow here,” Kerran muses wistfully, hugging her arms close to herself. “We wanted it to be an art of light, colour and style…to the point of one not wanting to leave. Indeed, that’s where we found inspiration for her name too. Lumière French for light and it’s something we’ve really embraced. It has set the tone for the whole project.”
A carefully curated collection of vintage lighting, along with Kerran’s keen eye for colour, have resulted in an extraordinary mood. “Sam is a cartographer and his land and surveying background was also really useful. We knew exactly what we needed in terms of light to create the atmosphere we wanted. We’re surrounded by so much black and white these days that I’ve really enjoyed playing with these colour tones. The reactions we’re receiving from guests now is telling us others are really enjoying the results too.”
Throw in the couple’s unique sense of style and this is a renovation that is second to none. As first time renovators, one hastens to think how future projects can exceed a bar that has been set exceedingly high. The attention to detail is breathtaking. “What we’ve tried to create is a feeling and an experience,” adds Kerran softly. “It’s an escape to Hobart Town over a century ago but with the twist of contemporary convenience.”
Kerran, a nurse in a forensic mental health setting by day, readily admits to a fascination with styling. “Mum and dad are antique collectors, and I’ve always loved it too,” she explains. “Growing up, I loved fashion. I always collected magazines as a little girl and would cut the pictures out and put them on my walls.” She pauses before continuing, “I sketched a lot too, especially throughout the renovation process. My confidence has certainly grown as the project has progressed, particularly being surrounded by a lot of practical men…I had to be clear about what I wanted.”
The pair exchange glances when asked about the challenges they have had to overcome. “I think the hardest thing was the pressure we placed on ourselves to get it right,” says Kerran. “We’ve been striving to create a real story here. Something that is true to the era but allows people the luxury they are looking for in order to escape everyday life.”
Guests must choose between three distinctly different bedrooms – all with delightful individual flavours. The master king suite at the rear of the property is awash with natural light flooding through an old church window the couple salvaged elsewhere in the state. The King Billy Pine masterpiece is fully restored after hours of careful attention, and now stands overlooking a rambling, somewhat whimsical, rear garden overgrown with ivy and old fruit trees. It’s minimal in its styling and oh so calming. The adjoining spacious ensuite is the perfect mix of old and new – think marble countertops, walk-in shower and dark moody tones.
A quirky masculine room inside the front door offers a generous queen bed, cosy arm chair and stylish timber writer’s nook. It’s dressed in warm autumn hues and reminiscent of the wild West Hobart hills of yesteryear. Situated next to the main bathroom, there’s every reason to escape for a long soak in the claw foot bath. Be sure to light all the candles, and give yourself a good hour to bask in the warm glow cast through the period leadlight window.
Your feet will easily find the century old tred as you venture up the narrow staircase to a delightful attic room. “I mixed this paint colour myself too,” says Kerran of the smoky pink tones. “I love experimenting with paint and creating unique colours. Take a closer look and you’ll realise it’s rich in of pigments of blues and pinks. It’s so delightful.” Indeed, it’s hard to argue it’s anything but a perfect choice, offsetting original floorboards and a luxurious clawfoot bath. A comfy lounge, dormer window and reading nook may mean you will risk not descending the stairwell again for the entirety of your stay.
No matter your choice of boudoir, you’ll relax into sumptuous linens, rich textures and warm antique styling. There’s nothing dated and cold about Lumière – it’s the perfect mix of old world charm and contemporary comfort. Dressed in all manner of quirks, you’ll fall in love with Kerran’s handpicked pieces and find yourself mentally redesigning your own place whilst you’re here. She has a clear gift for curating special spaces.
“I’ve been collecting for years,” says Kerran. “I’ve done a lot of hunting and sourced things from all over the world that are sympathetic to this era. There are a lot of vintage artworks here and each has their very own story. These characters now have a new home here and could well have played out their lives in Hobart over a century ago.”
An intimate sitting room is the place to finish a busy day exploring the city. “Just as we enjoy music, conversation and a cocktail at the end of a long day, I imagine things were quite similar over a century ago,” says Sam. “This is the perfect space for that. We leave some local whiskey for our guests and hope they have an hour to while away in here chatting about what they’ve discovered and just soaking in the charm. It’s about reconnection.”
The piece de résistance however has to be the stunning rear open plan kitchen, dining and lounge area. Spacious and characterful, it’s finished to the highest of standards and dressed in beautiful duck egg blue. The timber floorboards are offset with gorgeous textiles and an eclectic selection of seating awaits around the roaring fire. An intimate banquet beneath the antique chandelier will have you hypothesizing for hours about the home’s earliest occupants.
The kitchen is one of Kerran’s favourite spaces. With all the mod cons one could wish for carefully hidden behind custom cabinetry, and easy access to the private courtyard beyond, this is a hot spot for guests to linger. Perched at the island bench with a drink in hand, Kerran motions to the large window above the sink and explains, “I sketched up an architrave and photocopied it half a dozen times to come up with the window design. I think it fits perfectly here, and it’s so beautiful to watch the light through it. It changes as the day progresses.”
For a young couple, the Langley’s have a sophisticated sense of old world style – that uncanny knack of making ‘old’ cool again. Nothing is overdone. Kerran’s careful placement of antiquities is masterful. The off centre use of art and furniture replaces the potential stuffiness of the 1890s with a quirky take on Hobart’s coolest ancestors. Kerran credits a friend and role model in helping her find her way, “She really helped pave the way in shaping this home and kept telling us to always ‘do what you love’. From there our confidence and creativity blossomed and I’ll aways be grateful for that.”
“We’ve learnt so much about ourselves in this process,” says Sam. “And about each other too. I read somewhere that over 25% of couples divorce during a major renovation, so I’m glad we’ve passed that test!” The couple’s attention is now firmly centred on welcoming their first guests through Lumiere’s doors. “Timing has actually worked really well for us,” continues Sam. “Whilst some people said we should strive to open to catch the Dark Mofo crowd, opening in July meant we’ve had time to find our feet. By the time Hobart’s busy period is upon us, any potential teething problems will be well and truly ironed out. As we’re still managing day jobs and are new to hospitality, we think that’s a smart way to go about things.”
Sam finishes, “People work so hard these days…we hope they can come here, take a deep breath, and let the charm of the house and the neighbourhood just wash over them. If that happens, we’ll be really happy and it will have all been worth it.”