Music is good for your wellbeing. Being in the bush is good for you too. Add an upcycled home and music therapy room, and you have a magical combination. Allison Davies is a registered Music Therapist, and after more than a decade of going to nursing homes, schools and centres, she decided it was time to create her own space to work from. “After a failed attempt at opening a large multi-disclipinary allied health clinic in town in regional North West Tasmania, we decided to scale back the plan and convert the old shed on our property, into my clinical space, a small music therapy treatment room perfect for individual and small group therapy” she says. The plan was perfect and the space is welcoming, natural and inviting for both her clients and their parents. Allison now sees a handful of young children with autism each week, and within the treatment room they dance, play, sing and create. She lives on the property with her husband and two young children Maple and Chester, and they have lived in the home for 3 years, opening the treatment room this year.
Allison’s home and business are set on a 1.5 acre bush property with a homestead and 5 x 6 metre music therapy treatment room. The treatment room was originally a shed, followed by a turn as a dilapidated ‘man cave’. When she and her partner bought the property it was an empty timber framed room with old windows, one of which is still smashed. It held Tasmanian Oak floorboards which were never dressed, a timber deck, corrugated iron walls on the outside, and no frames around the windows. The only changes they have made are to insulate, plaster and paint. But, says Allison, she must get that window fixed – it’s freezing in Winter! The treatment room is nestled on the border of their clearing and the bush, so it has easy front access, but is all bush at the back. The back, South facing window, is almost the size of the entire wall and showcases the beauty of the Tasmanian bush perfectly. It’s definitely a stand out feature wall from nature.
Any eco friendly, sustainable materials or aspects used in the transformation to a treatment room?
We tried to leave all the original features to keep the transformation of the man cave into a professional allied health treatment room, as sustainable as possible. This means we still have the original windows and frames which don’t seal perfectly, and the original floor – although where some parts of the boards had rotted we’ve replaced with floorboards, which were sourced from our wood shed and chicken coop after it was pulled down! My husband, our next door neighbour and I did the plastering, which required much levelling up of the timber framing beforehand, to cut down on the footprint of using tradesmen. We’ve built shelves with off cuts of Macrocarpa from our local foreshore market, and to heat the room we open the north facing front door to allow the sun in, which works until about 3pm. Unfortunately most of my clients come after school so we may need to look at a better heating system!
How did you find your home?
On New Year’s Eve 4 years ago I had the sudden urge to go online and look at real estate in this area. The website opened straight away to this bush property, which had just been listed moments before. We made an offer the next day, which wasn’t accepted due to a better, non-conditional offer being made. So we accepted that it wasn’t meant to be and went back to our beach house that we were trying to sell. A month later we had an offer on our beach house and on the same day had a call asking if we were still interested in our bush block. The contract had fallen through. They could have sold this place a dozen times over, but they came to us first because I’d said I could see us getting married under the big tree next to the house. We sold our old house and bought our new house for the exact same amount on the same day – it was all so synchronistic. And also, this December, we’re getting married under the tree!
What made you fall in love with it?
The quirky characteristics inside the house, the enormous open fire in the lounge, the attic bedrooms, the bush, the space we have for our children to play and explore, the location – 8kms from the town and the ocean but far away enough that we feel we’re in our own bush paradise!
Was there anything you didn’t love about it?
I don’t love the rats, leeches and the scorpions. I love everything about the house and the treatment room though. Nothing needed changing when we moved here – the added walls to the treatment room have proven useful though!
Are there things you still want to change?
Not necessarily change, but definitely things we want to add! Leighton set me up an outside bath above a little fire pit – we plan to add another bath next to it for the ultimate his ‘n’ hers bathing experience, complete with a cheese board connecting the tubs. I also have an idea for a bath house in the centre of our orchard (noticing a theme here?). I would dearly love to set up a multi sensory room somewhere in the bush near the treatment room, for children with sensory processing needs but I wonder how practical that would be seeings we live in the middle of nowhere!
Can you share something you like about your local area or region?
The sense of community, recognising so many friendly faces and having local coffee shops. Also, the NW Coast of Tasmania is stunning – the coastline is breathtaking and the beaches are tiny, rugged and almost always empty, it truly is the most beautiful place in the world.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how is this part of your home?
We are very conscious about leading a sustainable lifestyle to be the best of our ability, and showing our children how that’s done. Almost all the decorating of the treatment room and house is salvaged, op-shopped or found, the landscaping is all done with sleepers and rocks we’ve found, piles of bricks we’ve come by, we have a great big compost behind the treatment room – hence the rats.
What is your decorating style?
I love earthy and neutral tones and nothing that looks mass-produced or trendy makes it into our space! We have a lot of natural materials as part of our decorating, a piece of driftwood, leaning against the wall, mismatched pots and pot-plants (a must!), old chairs from the salvage yards. Also I can’t deal with clutter so I like to keep lots of empty space.
Do you have any tips for other people wanting to own or build a similar style of home?
This annoys my husband but I can’t make any changes until I get the ‘vision’. We constantly discuss our ongoing ideas for the house, treatment room and the garden, but until I can clearly visualise how it will all look in my mind I can’t go ahead with anything. I think this is a plus. Also, I’m pretty strict, I don’t negotiate when it comes to layout or design and I often change my mind on something once it’s done – which my Mum would say is a woman’s prerogative!
Biggest Challenge in designing or decorating your home?
Lack of time and money! We have all the grand ideas but with a young family we have to pace ourselves, save the money, make the time and prioritise. Right now our dishes seem to live in the dishwasher as we have no kitchen cupboards or drawers, but it’s working for us so fixing up the kitchen is not yet a priority.
What do people say when they come to visit you?
“You’re so lucky”, which is true, and we are very grateful.
Do you recommend any particular materials, processes or ideas for people wanting to create a more sustainable and mindful home?
I learnt during my permaculture course to observe the environment for a year before you build or make significant changes, that way you’re aware of all the environmental and seasonal changes that may affect your ideas. We left the man cave for 3 years before we created the treatment room, but my plans changed so much during that time that I’m glad we waited.
What do you do to relax and unwind at home?
Nothing is better than a hot bath. And now that the treatment room is done I love to spend quiet time in there and put business plans together.
Almost all of my instruments were given to me or were secondhand. The piano was offered to me by the lady at the bank, the djembe was a gift, last week someone offered me a drum kit that they’d somehow ended up with, garage sale sourced tambourines and maracas, recently I was crowdfunded a guitar! Amazing things happen when you create the space for abundance!
You can find out more and follow Allison and her and her wonderful business Oh My Musical Goodness on her blog and social media