There’s a pair of rusty surgical scissors propped by the big tub in the bathroom that help tell the story of a remarkable Tasmanian home.
The aged instrument was unearthed during reconstruction of Raffah House, a sandstone cottage built in the 1840s in the heart of Oatlands, the town that sits off the side of the Midlands Highway halfway between Launnie and Hobart.
You might be like me and usually stop in Oatlands for a wee between north and south because good luck holding on through all those roadworks. But after spending a night here amid Raffah’s casual country luxury and wandering about this lovely little town, I suspect there’ll be many more of us staying longer.
The tone is relaxed yet you feel kinda fancy floating through the abode that’s been restored in respect to its past but with contemporary comfort in mind. Vintage prints, woven baskets and reclaimed pews pop against fresh white walls. Raffah’s ceilings touch the clouds and skylights illuminate every corner and most surfaces are dotted with quirky chattels and sprigs of billy buttons. Softly echoing Raffah’s bright green front door, shades of olive and sage are scattered throughout, alongside pinches of blush and original stone and timber. Three boudoirs featuring French linen have tall sash windows sealed with shutters that angle light in and the bathroom is cheekily spacious, with flecks of brass and that tub. There’s a separate second loo, which is always handy.
Like a pig to a truffle, whenever I stay somewhere new, I sniff out the soap. Is it trusty Palmolive or something a little more posh? Well, at Raffah it’s sumptuous Ashley & Co, so you can imagine the shrieks of delight when I used it to wash half a teething rusk off my eyebrow. No, I don’t know how that happened.
Other accoutrements I favour in accommodations include solid pots and pans and a decent cooktop to use them on, a few good coffee table glossies, squishy pillows, washing machine, clothes hanging racks, oil and salt, milk in the fridge and a compendium explaining how to work the telly. Because it’s all in the details, don’t you think?
Raffah romped it home on each of the above criteria (and scored big bonus points for fresh eggs, McHenry gin and rosemary sprigs from the garden) because owners and Oatlands locals, Sophie and Nick Weeding, who bought the place in 2017, have poured genuine thought and unostentatious style into this place.
“We had just welcomed our first child and so my parents were visiting from Victoria. They wandered past the For Sale sign and came back excitedly declaring they’d discovered a sandstone gem in the main street. We could see that it was crying out for a refresh of sorts and we love a challenge, so we made some enquiries and the rest is history,” says Sophie.
Sophie’s renovation experience was limited to painting a wall in a Melbourne rental once. But you quickly realise this woman, a marketing whiz who fell in love with a seventh-generation Tassie farmer and moved from the big smoke to the Midlands, is a total go-getter whose touch turns 1840s rundown cottages into glam Airbnbs now frequented by Sarah Glover and Country Road styling squads.
“It took exactly one solid year of work to pull her up to how she stands today. We put out enquiries and some friends of ours highly recommended a couple of tradies with a strong heritage background. Though we weren’t doing anything structural, we were very conscious that we had the right people guiding us through the process of the cosmetic overhaul we were going to perform, as it was imperative we were respectful of the bones and I knew it had to be timeless.”
Sophie says as the team peeled back the layers, it discovered there’d been a fair amount of dodgy work done. For example, concrete had been relied upon which Sophie says is a big no-no in a sandstone structure like Raffah.
“So we set to work stripping the concrete along with stucco plaster in every room and replaced it with clean white plaster walls, then replaced linoleum floors with timber and filled the place with furnishings that are muted and sympathetic to the house and enables the old stone dame to do the shining.”
For now, Sophie says her, Nick and their two cute as heck boys, Willy and Archie, are basking in the glow of celebrating one year since Raffah opened her green front door to guests. But as we catch up by the gas fire in Raffah’s sitting room over glasses of local plonk, just before sitting down at the vast dining table to a pre-packed Grazing Tasmania feast (these can be arranged for part or all of your stay and are dead-set delish and come in super generous sizes), Sophie has a definite twinkle in her eye when I ask her what’s next.
“I can’t sit still and we have a big old beauty of a barn out the back that is in desperate need of some TLC – so who knows what mad idea I might have pop into my brain! I’m always thinking!”
Sophie is certainly adding another chapter of female entrepreneurship to the Raffah story. Local nurse, Ellen Gane, bought the property in the early 1900s and turned it into a bustling maternity hospital that ran until 1944. And so the surgical scissors, discovered by Sophie’s dad beneath trails of ivy in the backyard (that’s now a splendid al fresco hang), let us tangibly in on another interesting era of Raffah.
“A home is a very personal thing, and you can’t help but think of the previous owners – ‘what would they think of what we’re doing?’ or ‘do you think they’d approve?’ and so on. But I feel like we would make the previous custodians of Raffah proud of what we have done, we love the place and are so proud!”
Closing the back door after a night well-spent in Oatlands, the new owners of Raffah House have nothing to worry about: she’s a beauty.