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
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!”