Perched on a lake in a small, remote town on the west coast of Tasmania, sits a beautiful oasis by the name of Captains Rest and the location of our most recent Poetica campaign. Offering an almost submission to nature this dream-like cottage oozes comfort, style and history. The beautifully restored cabin is full of character and so is the inspirational woman who brought this dream to fruition. Sarah Andrew’s is the owner, renovator and stylist behind Captains Rest, with an amazing true story that is nothing short of unbelievable. From spatial scientist to shipwrecked sailor to designer to the owner of one of the most sought after lodgings in Australia - Sarah is an intriguing woman with a lifetime of stories to tell. It is this love for storytelling, that has made the truly unique experience of Captains Rest such a success. Sarah now wears yet another hat, teacher, running a very successful Hosting Masterclass in which she shares her experience with renovating, design, styling and marketing her accommodations. We were lucky enough to hear firsthand Sarah's incredible story, even luckier to receive some of her top styling tips.
Your story is truly a unique one, it seems you have lived a lifetime twice over. Tell us a little bit about your journey so far.
I used to tell this story at parties and I knew no one believed me. Life has been a real adventure, that’s for sure! I grew up in remote Western Australia to swag-making parents, either on the back of horses, or floating in warm blue seas. And then too soon, you have to be an adult and decide what you want to be when you grow up. So, I picked "Spatial Scientist" because it sounded interesting, and it was. But even in one of the best jobs in the world, I was stuck in a grey cubicle something I know many will be familiar with. At 20 something I had my 40 something mid-life crisis, sold everything I owned, and set out into the world with a polaroid camera and a rucksack. I wandered and wandered and wondered and bought a boat. Looking back this really was the first time as a sort of grown-up I felt at home. It was a challenging, scary, life-altering beautiful experience.
After a year or two living and sailing my boat, on a dark and stormy night off the coast of Mexico, it sank! I'll spare you the details, but I ended up shipwrecked on a beach for 6 months, living in a 3 sided tin shed with a feral cat named "Gato" and fed by the kindness of local strangers.
I got home, eventually — went back to school to become a designer — which I loved as much as science — but I found myself back in the cubicle. This time married, with a chronic illness and a whole lot of melancholy. Captains Rest was bought for me as an escape from all of that. Someplace to get away, heal, think and try to figure my way out of this mess I had made for myself.
Sarah, you seem to be a woman who dons many hats from scientist to interior designer to sailor, naming only a few. How have these roles throughout your life come together to create Captains Rest and The Hosting Masterclass?
Well, ‘People Plan, God Laughs’ as they say. Although Captains Rest was created for me as the world I wanted to live in at a hard time in my life, an even harder time bubbled up. My marriage ended in the most unexpected, spectacular, and dramatic way. With no place to go but back to my parent's house, and no real ability to work due to how sick I was at that point, I pieced together everything I had ever experienced and learned. Art, design, storytelling, science, business, adventure, and truth. Telling my story and sharing my life through this space to make ends meet, and Captains Rest was born. It has been such a magical journey, the west coast of Tasmania has been put on the map — and now 1000’s of people around the world come to learn how I did it in The Hosting Masterclass. I am so proud to have been able to give that to so many beautiful people that deserve success too.
Captains Rest’s interiors and styling are so well thought out, from the upholstery to the antique oil paintings that adorn the walls. Where did you find your inspiration?
I always find my inspiration from the world around me. The spaces around me and how it makes me feel. At Captains Rest, I want to be transported back to my time at sea — celebrating the beauty of the ocean and the timelessness and tradition of life on it. Living on the sea is about observation, it's about safety & warmth — and when conditions allow, small pleasures like reading, painting, writing and the arts. At my house, where I live full time, The Hermitage — I am inspired by a sense of monasticism. This place is a mini castle full of rounded walls and archways, perched just meters from a rocky private shore. I feel a sense of peace and solitude. There is not much in my home, a bed, a couch, a chair, a record player. Days are spent in contemplation, creation, wonder, peace. In a way the two places feel like opposites, Captains Rest is about possibility and being out in it all, The Hermitage is about refuge, protection and prayer.
You’ve reinvented the direction of your career and subsequently, your life several times now. What would be your advice for women looking to do the same, looking to chase a new passion?
Life has collapsed from beneath me a few times. Being a young person — having worked so hard for one of the top jobs in my field, only to realise the devastating truth, that it just wasn't my path. I was at a low point, on a remote beach in Mexico, quite literally shipwrecked. And again, in my 30’s that low point reared its ugly head. Each time the anxiety and fear of the unknown felt very similar to drowning, but there is something else that bubbles up at these low points. Possibility. I think in a space where nothing exists, everything you knew, wanted or had planned is taken from you — there is an emptiness that feels like a fresh piece of paper. If someone is reading this that can relate, I would love to say this to you: ‘From this space, everything is possible. Focus on that emptiness, now is your chance to dream life anew. Who you really are, what you want, what you want to say, what you love. Start from these places and see what's next for you.’
Your story has been full of many obstacles and many triumphs, how has that shaped who you are and how you view life around you?
This is a lovely question to stop and ponder on, one that I don't think I ever have...... perhaps If I compare myself now, to myself 10, 20, 30 years ago — The me now knows however long I get on this planet, it won't feel like enough. The work that I do, the people I do it for, the people I love, and the way I spend my time - It's exactly what I want to be doing in this world, what I want to be saying, who I want to be loving. No act or minute is wasted living in a way that's not mine.
When you found Captains Rest is was a rather run-down fishing cabin in remote Tasmania, now it is an unbelievably successful lodging. Walk us through the renovation process, especially being so remote, we can’t imagine there were many shops close by.
If you want to see how much, google 63 Lettes Bay Road. In all honesty, it was hard. The west coast of Tasmania now is such a romantic place to visit, but 5 years ago it was a very different story. Remote, isolated, hard. The nearest store was an 8 hour round trip. For anything more than that, like furniture and finds, it was a few days on the road. Captains Rest wasn't a liveable space either, I rented a little place close by week to week, learning to build and renovate in order to create the world I wanted to live in. I did this by day and worked hard at my day job by night, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. It took about 9 months. So yes, it was hard but back then I had this corner of the earth to myself to do what I pleased, I'll always be grateful for that.
What is your favourite thing about the house, an item or structure that you feel brings it all together?
There is real-life magic in that little place. Did you ever read The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid? I'm re-reading it now. I know it's not one particular thing, guests tell me they have the same experience as I do when they visit. They say, "I knew every inch of this place before I arrived, but not how it feels" — it's a place that transports you through the wardrobe of our own lives to someplace else where everything is possible. It's really one of the most special experiences I have ever known.
We asked Sarah to share with us her top tips for styling your home.