The Little Black Shack
This past winter I stumbled upon an article featuring an eco-friendly fishing shack renovation on the other side of the world. It was this one from Design Sponge. It stopped me in my tracks that day and I’ve found myself revisiting photos of the incredible spot on a pretty regular basis. Luisa Brimble did such a wonderful job capturing the space and through the story and images Jamie & Ingrid Kwong tell, it becomes clear just how thoughtful, resourceful, and determined they were in the redesign. I’m continually inspired by this project and I’d love to one day create a space like this in Nova Scotia.
“On the water’s edge of Pittwater’s pristine Western shore, we’ve turned an old fisherman’s shack into a private eco retreat. Our ambition -positively influence our environment and our guests, one couple, one weekend at a time.” - Jamie & Ingrid Kwong
There are a few aspects of the design that really speak to me. It’s a nice reminder to have patience—Jamie spotted and admired the rustic shack in a TV commercial without knowing it was even in Australia, and 30 years later noticed a for sale sign. And their approach is remarkable. They worked hard to make a positive impact on the land and sea around them, and to create a space where people can reconnect with those values. They were dedicated (and I mean dedicated) to this.
A quick background: the shack was originally hand-built by local fishermen in the 1930s as an early ‘refuge’ for fishermen camping with their families, and was built in a manner that worked with the steep bush block. Over 80 years of exposure to the elements (and termites) meant the shack needed loads of work, but the Kwongs were keen to take on an environmentally friendly restoration project that would see the original shack restored and rescued within 18 months. Keeping in mind the location (the shack is only accessible via boat or foot through hiking the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park), they had plenty of challenges ahead but were determined in their process. It’s hard to ignore that it would have been far cheaper and easier to knock the shack down and start from scratch, but their intention was to preserve its character and the surrounding environment. They recycled, repurposed, and reused as much as possible and rebuilt what they couldn’t fix. Working with family and an environmentally conscious builder, they boated in their materials and carried everything up to the shack by hand.
I’m trying to keep this short & sweet, but MAN there’s so much I want to say. This place is homey and casual but luxurious and well-travelled, peaceful, idyllic, and all the good things you want on a really good vacation when you need to unplug and remember what’s important. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
The living room in the Little Black Shack. All of the windows were recycled and restored to retain the original character. The fishermen had built them to slide out of view and behind the wall to better enjoy the view.
And the multipurpose window seat—used for reading, napping, guest beds, and enjoying the scenery—was built from two storage chests which Ingrid and Jamie made out of old wood.
The living/lounge room is the heart of the space and boasts a handmade sandstone fireplace. Secondhand objects, a collection of well used books, and souvenirs from Ingrid & Jamie’s travels around the world decorate the shack.
Skip the anchors and lobster motifs, this is my kind of nautical. The couple’s favourite wall: stained the same colour as the shack exterior and displaying a collection of some v. old seafaring pieces they’ve collected along their travels over the years.
The kitchen table is original to the shack, old floorboards were turned into kitchen cabinets, and the floating shelves were made using leftover decking planks. French doors open to a covered outdoor terrace with views of the sea.
Bedroom walls were painted charcoal and white to add contrast. The king size bed was built of wood from the ramp they used during the restoration process.
Scouring flea markets and second hand shops, the shelves, desk, and stool were all handmade but purchased separately. They look to be part of a perfect set.
A second bedroom and art studio were created on the lower level, which was formerly used as a storage space. Walls were built from original sandstone and lined with timber to protect from the coastal elements. The queen bed and bookshelf are made from old timber which was salvaged from the site.
A covered pergola offers an idyllic al fresco dining experience with a camp-style sandstone charcoal BBQ and kitchen garden with seasonal organic herbs. Perfect for eating in almost any weather, the pergola provides shade from the sun and shelter from the winter, and offers an unbeatable water view.
The perfect spot to enjoy a morning coffee. Or if you want to elope, this wouldn’t be a bad place to do it either.
The inside and outdoor environments work so well together and completely set the tone for a relaxing & eco-friendly retreat. No detail has been overlooked, and you have to admire the heart, soul, and commitment the Kwong’s put into their hideaway. You can rent the shack here.
If you can’t tell, the Kwongs are passionate about sustainability, and their aim is to take the shack completely off the grid. They’re striving “to be totally powered by the sun, grow, raise and catch as much of our own food as we can, make any furniture we need and collect all our water from the sky and the sea.” And that’s a pretty great goal if you ask me ✨