Today we take you to Binalong Bay located in the heart of Tasmania’s Bay of Fires, to the calm and moody space of Sabi (@sabi.stays). Sabi unites bespoke luxury accomodation with a grounded authenticity, creating a place for guests to tap into stillness and seek refuge from all the noise of the outside world. The beautiful stone and timber cabin embraces all things wabi sabi, a Japanese concept that owner & designer Jessica is passionate about.
“Wabi sabi celebrates imperfection and incompleteness and honours beauty in the understated and that which comes with the passage of time. There are no limits or boundaries, no preconceived notions nor criteria, no beginning, no end. Rather, an understanding that all things are transient and impermanent. It honours naturalness without pretence, and is subtle in its grace.” — Jessica Eggleston, Sabi
The space heroes these ideas with a focus on natural materials, earthy textures and a calm, neutral colour palette throughout. We chat with Jessica about her journey to creating Sabi & the lessons we can learn from embracing these principles in design & in life.
SHOP WABI SABI
Still: The Slow Home by Natalie Walton | Capsule linen pendant in ivory — medium | Round linen pendant in ivory — large | Ceramic mug | Merino sheepskin rug | Puna llame throw — tobacco | Iron towel rail — medium
Introduce yourself and tell us about your journey leading up to creating Sabi.
Fred (an engineer and project manager) and I (a psychologist and criminologist) have been married for 14 years. We have two children: Hugh 5, Poppy 4 who are ‘Irish Twins’ meaning they were born inside 12 months of each other (they are 51 weeks apart). We lived in Melbourne for the past 20 years having moved from regional Victoria after finishing school to attend university and never really thought we would leave until one day the opportunity to move to Tasmania presented itself and we jumped at the chance. = We had recently completed a large renovation and sold our then family home - a Californian Bungalow in Yarraville, Melbourne, and so were feeling a little footloose and fancy free. I suspect it was more the lack of sleep after having two babies within a year of each other but either way we embarked on a new adventure that has been Tasmania and haven’t looked back.
How did you discover Binalong Bay and what led you to the decision to buy there?
My weakness is azure waters; I am forever chasing the blue. I think this obsession is due to the fact that I grew up in Papua New Guinea as a young girl and spent many a weekend on nearby islands discovering hidden beaches and watching my parents scuba dive - so I blame them for my obsession!
In 2019, my husband and I and our then one-year-old daughter and two-year-old son (now four and five, respectively) made the move from inner city Melbourne to Tasmania. We had a big combined family Christmas planned not long after we relocated with both families. We had seen incredible photos of the Bay of Fires, especially Binalong Bay, and had to see it for ourselves, so off we went. We hired a number of motorhomes, hit the road and explored the East Coast of Tasmania. It was a hoot and like something out of Cheevy Chase’s National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation!
When we arrived in Binalong Bay, it was quite literally breathtaking. The pure beauty and pristine coastline was out of this world. We were enamoured. It was the epitome of the hidden gems I daydreamed about. The expansiveness of the coast and sleepy seaside hamlet were endearing. Located in the absolute heart of the Bay of Fires Tasmania, Binalong Bay is a quaint seaside hamlet renowned for its pristine white sandy beaches, stunning turquoise waters and granite headlands blanketed in smouldering lichen. A mere five minute walk from SABI will have you on one of the most breathtaking beaches in the world as coined by Lonely Planet and Conde Nast. We wanted to immerse ourselves and make the most of the incredible opportunity of moving to Tasmania and we were taken with the Bay of Fires from the moment we arrived.
We are “those people” that whenever we go anywhere on holiday, we trawl the real estate windows and the online real estate apps, dreaming, so much so, it’s become a bit of a running joke. As luck would have it, I spotted it online but it was the Christmas/ New Year holidays so no one was open. When we returned home, I phoned the agent that afternoon (we hadn’t even returned the campervan) and the next day we were back in the car for the two hour drive to Binalong Bay to view SABI.
The house was dark, daggy and tired and reminiscent of a 1980’s sauna (not in a good way)... but for fear of sounding cliche, the house had an amazing feel. We were smitten. We couldn’t get the house of our heads. We did our due diligence and made sure we could afford it as the idea of a beach house was one of those dreams parked for the future. It just wasn’t on the cards or in the realm of our thoughts - we’d just moved to Tassie and we hadn’t even found a family home yet! But sometimes these places find you. Unbelievably to us, the property had sat on the market for more than two-years. We couldn’t understand it. Yes, it is the antithesis of a beach house aka “shack”, and seemed more suited to the highlands or alpine region but it just made us love her more.
I had just completed my doctorate in forensic psychology while having two children within a year of each other (“Irish Twins”), we had just finished renovating our home back in Melbourne, sold it and moved interstate… so I was supposed to be taking three months off for some much overdue leave. I recall on day five of my self-imposed leave, I had begun researching my next project. I had embarked on The Hosting Masterclass which opened up an incredible network of like minded creatives and I went down the rabbit hole only to come out the otherside eyes wide open and truly inspired. And so, SABI was born.
The following months were pure joy for me as I researched all that I could about wabi sabi philosophy and the underlying principles. I discovered a whole new way of thinking, seeing and being in the world. Ironically, the guiding principles of wabi sabi are diametrically opposed to all that I have been and known (i.e. asymmetry, embracing imperfection, incompleteness, impermanence). As such, not only has SABI been a beautiful project for us to work on as a family but also as an individual; I have grown immensely. One of my hopes with this project was to expand and evolve as a creative and I can attest that this is not only true but has occurred in more ways than I could have predicted. My understanding of wabi sabi now guides me in my life purists, my relationships and my view of the world. A deep gratitude runs through me for this experience and for having the opportunity to create SABI and to be able to share her with others.
What inspired the design of Sabi? What does wabi sabi mean to you?
The aesthetic and guiding principles of wabi sabi design were informed by the original architecture of the house. The mass of windows that appear Japanese in style, the natural materials of the house most notably the exquisite stonework both inside and outside the house, the timber structure and lining. It was about celebrating and amplifying what was already there.
For me, the cornerstones of wabi sabi design are purity and simplicity; a search for the sublime. It’s an authenticity that comes without pretence and for me this was about being as honest and transparent in all our materials and pieces we designed be it our simple brass tapware, reclaimed barrel bath or platform beds. It’s the beauty that comes with celebrating things as they are and not apologising for it or trying to be something you are not.. It took a bit of time for me to trust this process and be confident and comfortable in my restraint but it is incredibly empowering and liberating!
Wabi sabi celebrates imperfection and incompleteness and honours beauty in the understated and that which comes with the passage of time. There are no limits or boundaries, no preconceived notions nor criteria, no beginning, no end. Rather, an understanding that all things are transient and impermanent. It honours naturalness without pretence, and is subtle in its grace. It’s free from clutter and distractions that otherwise prevent us from finding inner peace. It is an awareness that with space comes tranquillity, calmness and a reassuring experience. Hence only those pieces that serve a purpose are warranted. Handmade, bespoke, reclaimed belongings and conscientiousness is valued over the mass-produced. It is a way of seeing and being in the world. On the one hand, we have shaped SABI but SABI has shaped us!
What’s your favourite part/feature of Sabi?
We are genuinely split on this one. For me it has to be our bathroom/wetroom aka SABI Spa because it’s a haven for the senses. Restrained in design but decadent in feel. I am the most proud of this room because the reality that has transpired is exactly how I had envisioned it to be and you feel like you could be anywhere in the world. It is a small space but packs a punch. It achieves beauty in design without compromising function and the texture in this room is next level. For my husband, it is the stone flooring. It is noble in its form and materiality and yet It has so much texture, warmth and has a grounding impact on you.. He has never tiled a day in his life but after a two-hour crash course on tiling early one morning, he laid every paver himself and the raw beauty is utter perfection.
3 words that best describe Sabi?
- Quiet luxury (Did you say 3? hehe)
What’s next for you/Sabi?
Good question! The lid has been lifted, so to speak, with respect to honouring my creative side and I am struggling to put the lid back on; the ideas keep flowing. Our overarching plan is to create a dedicated collection of wabi sabi inspired stays across Australia (hence the Sabi Stays name) and we have three concepts in motion at present. This is very exciting as we are constantly trying to push the envelope and our interpretation of wabi-sabi, simplicity and slow design.
We are thrilled to say that we are in the process of curating our own wabi-sabi shop that will offer an exclusive collection of SABI’s stand out pieces such as ‘SABI Sleep’ which is our very own range of French and Belgian flax linen, some homewares, soft furnishings and signature furniture pieces.
Without intending to, what has become clear, is that my approach to design is heavily influenced by my psychological expertise. I am always guided by how I want to feel in a space, how I want to experience a space and how I want a space to make us feel. My starting point is not just about how I want a space to look or function but what kind of impact I want the space to have on the way you feel and I work back from there. I have had so many inquiries about our project and wabi-sabi design more generally which lights up my world as design and creating inspiring spaces is a true passion of mine so I am seriously contemplating running workshops on wabi-sabi design principles and offering a boutique design consultancy that champions pared-back, restrained design that is sophisticated in its simplicity.
Book your stay via SABI Stays
Photography by Leann Timms