Tara Bennett is on a one-woman mission to bring the very best Japanese homewares and design to Australia. In an ambitious, perfectly realised response to streams of customers saying “I wish I could stay in your shop”, the owner of Sydney’s Provider Store has created a tranquil oasis just outside Hobart that lets visitors spend a night or two living with and enjoying the products sold in her store.
Provider House is hidden at the end of an increasingly winding road, high up the picturesque Lenah Valley, beside a peaceful stream that wouldn’t be out of place in Japan. It’s sheltered under the mighty flanks of kunyanyi (Mount Wellington), the massif that looms over Tasmania’s capital.
Bennett discovered what was then a run-down wooden cabin online while searching real estate websites to escape the pressures of caring for her unwell mother during the 2021 pandemic lockdown. “I knew it was right as soon as I walked up the crazy steep driveway,” says Bennett of the moment her dream became reality. “We want visitors to feel like they are stepping into a traditional Japanese home. The idea is to be able to experience all the home goods we sell in real life, everything from kitchen knives and frypans to bath salts and ceramics.”
While it’s only 15 minutes’ drive south to the Hobart CBD, 15 minutes’ drive north to Mona, and 20 minutes’ drive from Hobart’s airport, Provider House is so hidden away from the city – and its immediate, out-of-sight neighbours – that with very little imagination it seems as if you have been transported to the foothills of Mount Fuji.
The steep driveway certainly takes some courage but offers the reward of a charmingly refurbished cabin with kunyanyi towering in the background, and a foreground featuring a sunken firepit and garden – newly planted Japanese trees and shrubs elegantly contrasting with the native eucalyptus rainforest surrounds.
Visitors can experience the beauty and practicality of the best of Japanese design in a relaxed domestic setting. Getting hands-on with the utensils, homewares and ceramics found on the shelves of Provider Store while staying overnight at the house gives visitors a deeper appreciation of their quality, and the culture of craftsmanship from which they come. And if you fall in love with something – inevitable, really – you can order anything in the House from the Store (with a special discount for guests).
The three-level home sleeps up to six guests, with antique and modern furniture – the Nychair X in front of the wood fire is a highly recommended place to dive into the home’s collection of Japanese design and architecture books – and glorious lighting, including Akari pendant lights in the dining and living rooms. Upstairs are three cosy bedrooms with queen or double beds and pristine white Tekla sheets, and a reading room and fully equipped kitchen.
A highlight is the ryokan-inspired wooden bathtub, crafted from Australian western cedar exuding scents of citrus and cigar boxes, which provides a serene bathing experience thanks to the sumptuous Onsen Saru bath salts provided.
Sydney-based architecture studio Trias designed the main rooms of the house, and Tokyo’s At Aroma developed an exclusive scent perfectly matched to the Lenah location, inspired by deep forest, running water and fresh air. The hills around the cabin are ripe for exploration, with a trail direct from the Lenah Valley right to the summit of kunyanyi for the fit and adventurous.
Daitou Shingu, the designer behind Ace Hotel Kyoto’s robes, made the bespoke and comfy Provider House robes, and the forest green bath towels from Shinto Towel perfectly match the bushland setting – if you can drag yourself out of the cedar bath to use them. The underfloor heating helps.
Provider House offers a peaceful escape from the world that is both cosy and sophisticated, and an ideal place to call home after a busy day of exploring.
Provider House is now taking bookings.
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