Richness of the past – Tasmania

Symmons Plains Homestead is a stripped-back Georgian heritage restoration shaped by modern tastes, specialist stone-masonry. Cumulus Studio believe, contrast and balance, tradition and modernity are just what a family home needs. The studio responded to Symmons Plains’ significance in Tasmania’s history while curating a contemporary home for the new custodians – a family of seven.
The design team aimed to reveal the richness of the stories that came before. Colonist John Arndell Youl built Symmons Plains in 1839 with a structure crafted using early Australian settlement techniques. Youl famously introduced the brown trout to Australia. His family lived at Symmons for seven generations until it was bought in 2011. When they demolished the building’s original concrete, it revealed a history of its own, with an eclectic mix of bed springs and old fencing added for reinforcement. It felt exciting to arrive at an answer for open, contemporary living within a building that’s essentially the antithesis of that.
To create an authentic ambience, the studio worked closely with Heritage Tasmania and engaged specialist British restoration stonemasons. The latter used traditional techniques to reinstate the slaked lime mortar, remedy dilapidated cement repairs and assist with the extensive exterior works. To create a clean, honest canvas, we also removed inconsistent extensions like the rear 1960s laundry and loggia.
Cumulus Studio’s design is a response to the property’s distinctive heritage structures. Typical for early Georgian homes, Symmons Plains is stripped back, austere and utilitarian. Lightweight steel and glass insertions balance the bold masonry and reflect this simplicity of form. They used steel as a symbol to represent the transition from old to new in the mind’s eye. Visible from the outside, steel buildings contrast to the masonry. Moving inside, they echoed this with steel used for the floating staircase, balustrades and subtle shelving and bench-top details.
To create living, social space in this home, the studio connected outbuildings and the rear wing into a single consolidated structure. This transformed forgotten storage sites into open plan space that felt flowing and functional.
The design team had to be really nimble with this project, sketching a lot of the design on site with the builder. The brief shifted and evolved over time and construction was already underway as we designed certain elements. But they had a really strong relationship with their client and felt completely aligned to their aspirations and expectations. As the son of a steel worker, the lead architect Todd felt especially proud of the bespoke steel detailing. The opportunity to use steel in that kind of way doesn’t come around too often.

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