Interiorssneak peeks

A Colorful Tasmanian Beach Shack is a Nomad’s Playful Retreat

by Kelli Kehler

Frankie Ratford doesn’t slow down often — in fact, she spends about 10 months out of the year traveling, whether it be for adventures, her work as a design coach/graphic designer, or for her company, The Design Kids. But she longed for a piece of land on which she could build a cabin, and found her ideal location while on a monthlong trip to Tasmania, Australia three years ago. She was smitten. “I flew back a month later, checked out 17 properties in one day and decided on this cute little blue shack on the water,” Frankie recalls. “It was a total steal at AUD$130k (about $97,000 USD).”

Nestled onto the Tasman Peninsula overlooking the water, the three-bedroom 1960s beach shack was in desperate need of some love. “Lucky for me, my amazing Dad offered to come over from the UK for a few months of building and renovating (twice!),” Frankie shares. “The shack was originally a cornflower blue, with the paint chipping off (there [had] been a fire right next door where they lost the shack and it’s a miracle mine is still there!), with brown interiors and many dark walls. We found some beautiful old windows at the tip shop which are easy to install in a wooden building, and took down some of the interior walls. The result is you can stand in the back garden, look right through the house and see the ocean! We painted all the walls white and put in a wooden floor which neutralizes all the color, artworks and furniture.”

For a cohesive look that is so joyful, colorful and energetic, it’s surprising that sourcing furniture has been the biggest challenge for Frankie, as the island is lacking in furniture stores and there’s no IKEA in sight (much to her dismay). The remoteness of furniture retailers has even resulted in slim pickings at secondhand stores, leaving Frankie to search far and wide for the right pieces for the shack. “It’s not ideal, but it adds to the coziness that everything is pre-loved and not matching,” she notes.

The most striking facets of the shack’s personality are arguably the vibrant murals painted on walls throughout the home — which speak to the shack’s main function as a place for artists to visit and create. “We run a Winter Residency program for creatives to come use the space for free, up to five days, five times a year,” Frankie shares. “Our current murals were done by Gemma O’Brien, Carla McCrae, and Zac Fay.”

The shack, as it stands now, is a far cry from the not-so-great 80s reno that overhauled its former spirit — the state that Frankie found the place in. Since she stepped foot onto the property she’s worked diligently to restore the shack to its rightful glory as a 60s fishing shack/weekend retreat, and in doing so she’s left an undeniable mark of color and spark.

“I’m a huge lover of color so it was important to breathe some life into the shack,” she says. “I also want the space to be constantly evolving and changing so each year it feels familiar and yet a new experience each time.” —Kelli 

Photography by Frankie Ratford / @tassiedesignshack

Image above: The living space of the shack now has a soothing canvas of wooden floors and crisp white walls onto which Frankie can layer brightly hued artworks and knick-knacks. The whole process of renovating the shack brought out a new creative side in Frankie. “I actually built a cabin completely by myself in the backyard while simultaneously renovating the house with my dad. I wanted to learn how to make a shelter myself, and I’m super proud. It’s [a] 5m x 2.5m cabin just for me, with a loft bed and [cherry] tree outside. It’s not the best craftsmanship you’ve ever seen, but it works. I had never built anything before so my carpentry skills are now 100x better!”


The Tassie Design Shack, while the perfect summer getaway for Frankie, is also well equipped for cold weather with a fireplace, games and baskets of blankets and warm jumpers for guests.


The open-plan living room, with the kitchen to the left and sunroom to the right (with a mural painted by Carla McRae).


The living room shelves bring bright color and energy to the space. Frankie shares, “A collection of treasures from my travels, including the tiger artwork on the pink shelf from Lithuanian artist Egle Zvirblyte.”


“A close-up of Shuh Lee artwork, a yellow plant gift from Frankie Magazine with the book Spaces, two stolen tiki glasses from a NYC rooftop bar, letterpress letters from a junk yard [in] Scotland, and Japanese bus postcard.”


“I’m a nomad so I spend around 10 months a year on the road traveling,” Frankie shares. “The shack gets rented via Airbnb and I get to use it in the summer for friends to come hang out, go hiking, and annual renovations.”


“Our New Year’s Eve Tasmania camp spot at Wineglass Bay, a three-hour drive from the shack,” Frankie shares.


The guests’ perks of a graphic designer owning the shack: “Cute colored house manuals designed by yours truly,” Frankie notes.


The original 1960s kitchen, one of Frankie’s favorite parts of the home. She wishes the home still retained all of its 60s character, as the 80s renovation erased many of those details. “Fred who built the fishing shack in the 60s and I would have got on great,” Frankie laughs. Frankie and her dad enhanced the existing kitchen with a game-changer of an update: “The kitchen window we put in. The kitchen faces east so all the morning sun pours in while you’re having your breakfast; it’s magical. And warm!”


The sunroom’s original mural, painted by Frankie in November 2016.


“The sunroom mural finished with a Mikey Burton egg print above the chair. The murals change every year so we’re excited to see the one for 2018.”


Frankie shares, “2017 sunroom mural by Jacky Winter-repped Melbourne illustrator Carla McRae with graduate illustrator Julia Chetwood sitting in front!”


Another view of Carla McRae’s sunroom mural at the shack.


Personal touches from Frankie: free Tassie Design Shack postcards left on beds for visiting guests.


“Our new 9-meter-long deck overlooking the sunset in the west and over Norfolk Bay, the private boats and wooden jetty. The new deck we extended over the existing carport not only looks way better than the old mossy structure there before, but it means we have a new nine-meter-long outdoor space overlooking the water, complete with day beds, fairy lights and star gazing. Next project is converting the space [underneath] into a sauna!”


“The house accommodates six,” Frankie begins, “three double rooms and seating inside and outside for […] dining.”


“The [main] bedroom boasts original wooden floorboards (bring warm socks!) and artwork from some of our favorite designers. Left to right: Bradley Pinkerton, Ace Palm Springs, Luke Day, Alice Oehr, Tin & Ed, Pocket Design, David Shrigley, The Designers Foundry, Esther Olsson with Will Bryant far left and a Hay Design bedspread.”


“I’m constantly inviting multiple visitors at once who don’t know each other when I’m there and I love the combinations of different people from different places coming together in this remote shack and making great memories.” Frankie says. “The hikes, the board games, the fire, the basket full of [baggy] communal wooly jumpers, the star-watching and the books mean people can unwind and get back to basics (we do have mega fast WiFi though!).”


“Our new bathroom with shower and new floorboards, the numbers are vintage petrol signs from New Zealand.”


“A misty day drive to Pirates Bay lookout and best coffee van.”


Frankie’s tip for her visitors: “We highly recommend the Shipsterns Bluff hike (the heaviest wave in the world) to watch the big wave surfers, hike 4 hours to the cape, or just have a $5 forest sauna.”


“The Tasman Peninsula has amazing beaches — this is Shelley Beach, a five-minute drive from the shack,” Frankie shares.


A drawing of the shack by Melbourne illustrator Candy Ng, who stayed there in December 2017.

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  • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh. I’d love to go there THIS MINUTE!! Cozy, bright, and beach. Winning combo, and lovely lovely work and makeover.

  • Wow so colourful and fresh. If there’s one thing our home lacks, it’s bright colours. Somehow I’m scared to use bright colours like these. But it actually looks beautiful.

  • Just seeing this place makes me want to leave this moment and spend at least the summer months there. I can feel the stress melting away already. So cozy. So welcoming. So homey. Gosh, I wanna live there. Thank you for sharing this wonderful home with me.