We all have that recurring daydream of dropping absolutely everything and taking off to live a life of simplicity and tranquility. It’s the ultimate question - do work and vacation lifestyles have to be mutually exclusive? Boutiq user Hannah Silverton has found an answer, and it’s the one you know you want to hear. This is the story of a creative sea change and the life-enhancing project of Mahalo House- a true Boutiq gem...
When did you first discover Byron?
"I first started spending a lot of time in the area from around 12 yrs old and remember being aware - even at that age - of feeling so happy and at ease whenever I was there. From then on it became a staple feature of every trip to Australia (I predominantly grew up in London) and felt more and more like a second home every year."
"The feeling needn't be confined to the occasional holiday... it could be a legitimate way of life."
How did you begin the Mahalo House project?
"At the beginning of 2016 when I was flying back from Ballina one Sunday night after a weekend in the hinterland, it dawned on me that that feeling needn't be confined to the occasional holiday but could be a legitimate way of life. I began peering into real estate agent's windows to look for plots of land or homes that needed some TLC, and signed up to get notifications when anything came on the market."
"After a few spontaneous day trips up from Sydney to inspect a mixture of properties, the place I own today popped up and as soon as I pulled into the driveway I had a great instinct about it. An old Queenslander with a wraparound deck, set on a uniquely large garden for Bangalow, just a walk into town and 12 minutes to the beach (Belongil one way, Tallows, the other), it felt like the best of both worlds rolled into one."
What's the best part about life on Australia's most easterly point of coastline?
"Everyone that has spent any time in this region of Northern NSW - either passing through as a traveller, relaxing as a holiday maker or a born and bred local - seems to agree there's something magic in the air; or maybe the crystal clear water. That kind of inexplicable energy you find in random pockets of the world. Local Aboriginal elders will - quite rightly - tell you Byron has been a sacred meeting place for tens of thousands of years, long before the arrival of the world-class restaurants, boutiques and surf culture that it's well renowned for today."
What would you say has been the highlight of the project?
"As anyone who has ever been struck with the renovation bug would probably agree, the most satisfying aspect of project like this is how inherently tangible the results are. I work behind a laptop for the best part of 9 hours a day, so getting my hands on fabrics and paint colours and carpentry was such a fulfilling process.
One month you have a run down old space; and the next - thanks to some creative vision, an amazing builder, and innumerable trips to Bunnings - it feels like a whole new place. Furnishings shopping aside, the best part is no doubt when the doors fling open and the house is filled with friends."
What are your top 4 Boutiq places you send Mahalo guests to in Byron?
"Only four? Wowee, that's testing! Ok..."
"Take a circuitous countryside drive to Doma in Federal for breathtaking views, and incredible authentic sushi."
"Grab a breakfast burger & homemade iced coffee at Topshop, sit on the grassy knoll and watch the neighbourhood go by."
"Hit the Treehouse for Happy Hour and don't bypass the Flatbread with your cocktail order!"
"Set your alarm for 5am and drive, then walk, to Little Wategos to watch the sunrise from the most Easterly Point in Australia (the Lighthouse will be too crowded and parking is a nightmare, even at that time in the morning!)"
Looking for the ultimate group retreat? Mahalo House sleeps up to ten guests and is available for holiday lettings here. Like Hannah, you can also remember your best food and travel places on Boutiq- the App turning your unforgettable discoveries into everlasting recommendations between friends.