New Photos of Otways Loft & History

We’ve just had a photo shoot at Otways Loft and Steam. Ferne Millen did a wonderful job. Here is a slideshow of some of the photos.

History of Otways Loft

We have had multiple guests asking us to write a history of the house. So here is what we know.

Talk around town suggested that the original 1800’s house was burnt down in a house fire in the 70's. It would have sat closer to the road than the current house, similar to other houses in the street.

The builder of the log beam house that is now Otways Loft, was considered a bit of a greeny-conservationist back in the 70’s when Forrest was abuzz with band saws and forestry was the primary industry. Throughout, there is a theme of recycling that was not popular in that era.

He approached building with an attitude of a craftsman, who didn’t do any task because it was efficient or simple: Everything needed solid authenticity. The log structure is almost ridiculously sturdy, and while the beautiful beams show throughout, it clearly was a headache to fit panels around them. I shudder at the detailed carpentry that was required. It was reputed to take 3-5 years to build (depending on which local you talk to).

The living room ceiling was reused from the demolition of a local church. Rumour has it that he found an unclaimed Cypress pine, dragged it to the local timber mill and forged the kitchen bench tops and the stairs. You will see parts of train carriage throughout. The dimensions of the building lent perfectly to each standard width carriage panel.

The roof of the house and the train were originally shingles. Shingles need to be split, not sawn, or they rot. It is bewildering to imagine the amount of time it must have taken the builder to split that many shingles, then nail them on two deep.

The Bath and Bathroom

The bathroom was our first project after buying the place. A renovation was essential. No builder was prepared to work on a set quote. So we employed George on a daily rate, and he lived in the house for a few weeks. George is formost an artist and secondly a builder, so he was ideal for this project (he also renovated the carriage).

George and I first lifted the bath out of the bathroom. Then George suggested we put the bath in the bed room. So we wrestled the old beast up the stairs, to see how it would look. It looked good. George inspected the joists and deemed them to be safe, and that is where it stayed.

George spent two weeks tiling the floor of the bathroom and the walls, which was a tedious job because he had to cut the tiles to fit around the rough-sawn poles. The result looks great; pure white tiles framing the dark timber beams.

The front deck was also rebuilt by George as well as the top deck extended.

Paint

Over the first year we painted the entire house interior. The walls were a mint green, with pink feature walls. We painted the walls white which makes the rough sawn logs a feature.

In keeping with the philosophy of reusing and recycling, almost none of the furniture is new.

Piano

There was a piano for sale ad at the general store. We bought it from Amida, (who later became caretaker for the first few years). We found out that a piano tuner has a holiday house in Forrest. Greg Gear helped us wheel it down the lane and in to the house. He continues to tune it annually.

Dining Table

This was gifted from Fleur’s cousin Margie. We had it in storage, and just wheeled it out. The balloon back chairs were sourced at auction rooms.

Club Lounge

We were on the hunt for a couple of Chesterfield’s, thinking that would suit the theme well. Whenever we saw a couple at auction rooms, we were always out-bid. We went to stay at a friend’s house, and they had these gorgeous unique deep red club lounges. I loved them, so simply asked “Can we have them?” Shianne said, we picked them up for $300, and they don’t suit here very well. If you can find something better, and replace them, you can have them. So I searched Gumtree and found a classic 50’s couch setting at a, Grecko-Verocan mansion, in Brunswick. It was immaculate, and really funky, so I trailered them out, and picked up the club lounges now at Otways Loft.

Hemmingway Room

There was no grand plan, we are only mild fans of Hemmingway. On a whim, Fleur bought the typewriter at auction for $30. Somebody gave us the school desk, and they found themselves paired. It looked a little “old school writer”, and the room had a slight safari feel with the mozzie nets so we started calling the room “Hemmingway”. We can’t remember where we found the portrait, but we framed it and completed the “Shrine to Papa”, as one guest described it.

Toilet Upstairs

The centre upstairs area was a bit of a dead space. I think the upstairs toilet was Georges idea too. With the theme of recycling he used parts of the train that were lying under the carriage. George suggested we needed something to cover up the piping, so I looked around and found a joist of the old deck that is now part of the arrangement. There was a cupboard against the wall, so we turned that around, made it a cleaning cupboard and formed the storage space behind with a lockable door through.

Loft Ladder

There was no access to the loft. At some stage it had been used as a bed room with a removable ladder. We were looking for someone to make a staircase, and Fleur noticed the guest at Liptrap Loft’s email address was justin@juststairs.com.au. He loved Liptrap Loft and agreed to do a contra deal that his family stay at Otways Loft while he built the loft stairs. Even better, he brought the recycled timber. It is an elegant solution to a difficult problem, designed to fit the style of house & beautifully executed.

Books

Most of Fleur and Mikes books are at Liptrap Loft, and, that collection has been diluted a bit because it has been used as a book exchange (either intentionally or unintentionally), but we don’t mind sharing great books with guests. For Otways Loft we’ve tried to find books at garage sales to provide that old-world feel.

Art

We visited How Bazaar Antiques in Geelong, well worth a visit. We bought the display cabinet in the Hemmingway room there. It was released in to the world when the MCG members stand was rebuilt several years ago. Who knows what it housed, but I imagine Brownlow medals, or Ashes Cricket medallions. How Bazaar also provided the authentic Vicrail Lockers and Vicrail lock for train door. Most of the art we found at auction rooms.

A guest, Katie Cincotta called Otways Loft “a curious mix of tree house, vintage train, raw and recycled materials set in a rambling adventure garden”…..I think that is a pretty good summary.

We don’t really see Otways Loft as a finished project, we are always looking out for furniture and artwork that we think will add to the ambiance. We’ll keep tinkering.

Mike

8 December 2017

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