On the edge of a breathtaking sapphire-blue bay and in the lee of pink granite mountains sits one gem of a resort – a dream project for any designer pre-destined to become a tourism icon.
Saffire Resort and Spa is tucked away down under on the 40th parallel, on an island a little more than 200 kms from top to toe, but is arguably one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The exact location is Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state but certainly no backwater. Saffire
has been voted by US Interior design Magazine the Best Resort Design in the World, among many other accolades.
Saffire remains one of the top go-to destinations for indulgent travelers not only due to its remarkable location, opposite the imposing Hazards Mountains fringed by white sandy beaches, but because of its authentic, sustainable and enduring architecture and interiors.
“We experienced a kind of osmosis with nature when we worked on this project,” explains CHADA partner, Juliet Ashworth. “It was impossible not to be inspired by the purity of the environment – the colours, the textures and the local materials.”
It was the job to win for a host of top design firms being considered for the project by the owners, the Farrell Family. The CHADA team’s pedigree in sustainable luxury design won it the commission, along with local architects, Circa Architecture (now known as Circa Morris-Nunn Chua).
CHADA’s brief was to create a luxurious resort that felt like a relaxed, coastal property with a focus on local – workmanship, suppliers, and craftspeople. Rick Whalley, CHADA’s co-partner, planned the spaces so that guests could move comfortably between them as you would in a private residence.
“I wanted to create that sense of freedom so that guests would feel welcome and at home wherever they went but also to find cosy, private zones created with a variety of seating,” he says.
But for both Juliet and Rick, it was all about the environment.
“There’s this wild beauty that needed to take centre stage,” says Juliet.
During her first site visit Juliet took photographs of rocks, pebbles, shells, the green-grey native shrub, lichen and driftwood. “It’s illegal to pick anything up and remove it,” she explains. The colours, textures, and even the photos themselves became elements of the design. The soft grey of the driftwood and rocks were translated into natural stones and paints, creating an organic backdrop to the design.
The bespoke guestroom rug features graphic representations of local bush, birds, rocks and rope to form a subtle map of the local area and the lampshades and cushions are wrapped in ‘panama’ fabric like the classic straw hat – a nod to coastal living.
There is a Tasmanian emphasis on the artworks throughout.
The view from the restaurant is sweeping and at the same time angled by the architect’s placement and design of the main lodge, shaped like a Manta Ray. The striking curved shape also acts to discretely shield from view the rooftops of the 20 suites below.
The expansive curved ceilings of undulating celery pine are accentuated with acoustic membranes of black mesh providing necessary sound mitigation for such a large open space.
Night lighting of the restaurant was carefully designed by lighting designers, FPOV, to eliminate any reflection onto the massive plate-glass windows, so as to not disturb the local fauna or human residents on the other side of the bay.
CHADA’s magnificent chandeliers with optical fibres diffuse soft light and add a touch of glamour to the dining experience. These are cleverly encased in black shades, so as to disappear at night and throw only sufficient illumination over the tables.
The owners and consultant group were very mindful of their responsibility to the pristine Tasmanian wilderness and worked hard to minimise the resorts carbon footprint. They chose sustainable materials for the construction and fit out including locally grown and unique plantation timbers for custom made furniture.
As guests enter the resort, the view through the massive floor to ceiling window provides the big reveal of the amazing views beyond.
This is the moment when everyone steps forward and says wow. Guests approach via a simple walkway (constructed of recycled material), flanked on one side by a dramatic hunk of stone, while at night changing lights bring true drama to the arrival experience.
“From the moment you step into the lobby we wanted to create a sense of timeless style – relaxed and unpretentious but not necessarily casual. So, we introduced classic furniture pieces into the mix by Charles Eames, the Andoo Lounge (by Eoos for Walter Knoll) and Turtle Chairs by Knoll in the restaurant, alongside pieces by Tasmanian master craftspeople. The resort features one restaurant in the main building with a lounge bar on the same level. In keeping with the idea of freedom for guests, they can opt to dine anywhere including on the beach.
Project: Saffire Resort and Spa
Location: Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia
Design Studio: CHADA
Photo Credits: Images Courtesy of Saffire Resort and Spa, Freycinet