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The Nun’s Room, an Old Tomato Growers’ Shack in Western Australia

by Sofia Tuovinen

The Nun’s Room, an Old Tomato Growers’ Shack in Western Australia | Design*Droits-Humains

Days spent at The Nun’s Room begin as the sun starts to rise over the Western Australia bushland. Jake the whippet stretches his long, slim legs and slowly makes his way out of the bed, giving Sarah some space to follow lead. After Sarah prepares a cup of strong black coffee, the twosome sit down under the gumtree or take a walk through the bush down to the beach, where Sarah plays in the waves, while Jake chases seagulls.

You may remember designer and stylist for Captains Rest, the fisherman’s shack in Tasmania that she restored and now escapes to for moments of pure solitude by the sea. The Nun’s Room, in turn, is the original tomato growers’ shack on her parents’ property, a place that Sarah has called home on and off her whole life. The 270-square-foot weatherboard was built over a century ago to house a family of five. During Sarah’s lifetime, the shack has molded itself from a childhood playhouse to a teenage retreat, and now finally, to Sarah’s most permanent residence. It has become a soft spot to land after travels, adventures, relationship disasters, and well, life. While Sarah rents out Captains Rest to kindred spirits, The Nun’s Room doesn’t accommodate anyone else — it’s a place so deeply personal, meant just for her.

During the day, The Nun’s Room lends itself perfectly to many a project, which Sarah busies herself with before spending dinner-time with her parents in the main house. When there’s time to just be, she picks up a book to read in the hammock, daydreams about what’s next or reorganizes her suitcase for upcoming travels, never quite knowing when she’ll return.

When dusk begins to set, and the last rays of sun filter in through the shack’s old windows, it’s time for Sarah to curl up in her favorite chair by the fireplace. She listens to piano music, draws and writes love letters, most of which never get sent. As dusk turns to darkness, Sarah lies down in the tiny bedroom nook at the far end of the shack. She looks for stars and constellations that she’s seen in other parts of the world, at other times in her life. Except for the light snoring from Jake, the world under the giant dome of twinkling stars is silent, and still.

As a full-time nomad and part-time hermit, Sarah knows she’ll never stay forever. When it’s time for a new adventure, she shuts the windows and locks the door to The Nun’s Room. Until she returns, things stay as exactly as they were left, and dust gathers. —Sofia

Photography by

Image above: In the morning, the daybed in front of the shack is the best spot to bask, drink coffee and ponder the day. Sarah’s dad has always called the old tomato growers’ shack The Nun’s Room. “I think partly because of me,” Sarah says — “I’m a bit of [a] hermit here on my own, and because of the tiny bedroom, which would be the size of most people’s wardrobes.”

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In the mornings, Sarah and Jake the whippet love to walk through the bush down to the beach. “I’ve been coming to this spot all my life. As the world changes around me, it’s nice to know that something so beautiful and perfect will always stay the same,” Sarah shares.

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The dining, sitting and guest sleeping area is where Sarah spends most of her time. “I love my home now just the way it is, but the biggest challenge for the space was learning how to hang wallpaper,” she says. “My mum and I found a bargain bin full of paintable wallpaper in a 3D flower print and fell in love with it. We brought the lot and figured, ‘how hard could it be to put up?’ The answer is very hard — it took us a week, and about seven arguments. We managed to do the entire house, and the ceiling of the bedroom nook before we called it a day and gave the leftover rolls away. It was a big job, but I’m glad we did it.” The dark, textured walls are now one of Sarah’s favorite things about The Nun’s Room. “I think as they peel over the years in the places we did a slack job with, they will be even more beautiful.”

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“This kitchen would have to be my favorite kitchen I have ever designed. Not particularly practical, but I love an old way of living. Lots of nooks and crannies to hide treasures and practical things — and just when I think I’ve run out of wine, I’ll always find a special bottle or two I’ve hidden right at the back.”

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The interior of The Nun’s Room, including the 3D wallpaper and the ceiling, was spray-painted in . Sarah chose a semi-gloss effect to highlight the floral pattern. Now, it feels like the wallpaper has been a part of the shack’s story from the very beginning.

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Sarah normally pops over to her parents’ house for dinner, so cooking never goes much past some cheese and fruit, a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

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“I can’t decide If I prefer summer or winter here,” Sarah says. “Summer here in the dark house keeps me cool. Bare feet on concrete floors, bathers all day and walks to the beach to dunk in a drip-dry. Winters, I snuggle in my favorite chair in front of the open fire and devour books by the handful every day.”

 

 

It’s a space that’s so deeply personal.
It doesn’t accommodate for anyone else except me.

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“Always a desk full of projects, love letters, dreams and schemes for what is to come.”

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Most things in The Nun’s Room have plenty of history and patina — timeless pieces, made by craftsmen, slowly. “I think things are always prettier aged, and I like found things and gifted things,” Sarah explains. “Their story marries with mine and it all works like a lovely chorus of singers, many voices singing the one tune. It’s beautiful.”

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Sarah doesn’t consider herself a decorator in the regular sense of the word. “I think my styling is more story telling. When I’m making a space, I am creating a world in which I can live like I’d like to,” she says.

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Drawings, old photographs and curiosities make up beautiful vignettes in each corner of The Nun’s Room. The old shack almost collapsed in the early 2000s after having stood empty for 10 years while Sarah lived overseas. “Bees had moved in and turned three of the walls into their lovely homes,” Sarah reminisces. “Dad and I spent about a month trying to re-home and ultimately remove the bees, and it didn’t go so well. I have some very funny memories of us both running as fast we could from giant swarms of bees — which wasn’t very funny at the time!” she adds.

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The shack doesn’t have a bathroom, as the farmers who lived there originally didn’t need one. Mum and dad want me to put a bathroom on at some point, but I enjoy my daily visits to them to use theirs,” Sarah says.

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The tiny bedroom nook fits a bed, Jake and Sarah but not much else. ”I always prefer to sleep in small spaces, so it suits me,” Sarah says. As the property is located so far away from the city lights, Sarah can see all the stars through the windows. “If I wake up and it’s still dark, I can often guess the time from how far my favorite stars have moved over the night sky.”

SOURCE LIST
Most things in The Nun’s Room are vintage, antique, collected and treasured.

Exterior
Paint –

Living Room
Paint – 

Kitchen
Sink – IKEA

Bedroom
Linen –

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