Why we do what we do

We have two properties that, over time, we have decided to share with guests. On the surface they appear very different. No.1 William St is a stone cottage built in the early 1850’s as home for the stone mason and his family. The Studio Somers is cement sheet holiday house built nearly 100 years later. These are both true to the times they were built and have a sense of their history and the people who have gone before.

They are both on the Victorian coast but 370km apart. No1 faces the Southern Ocean and the Studio Western Port Bay, and each has a very different South Beach.

Many of our guests have stayed in both houses. We’ve had guests at the Studio who’ve stayed at No1 not being aware of the connection. Unaware to us, we had guests who with friends decided to each stay on the same weekend – at different houses.  When I greeted Sue at the door she said “yes I already know about the coffee.” No1 and the Studio obviously share something… other than the coffee.

Our children, now both fully grown adults, were 2 and 4 years old when No1 was purchased so they have known it most of their lives and while the story of the Studio is different they grew up in Somers where I still live and have strong connections with the Mornington Peninsula. While both no longer live here they are both strongly linked to both places. Jess now has her masters in cultural heritage and acknowledges that her interest was sparked by her connection, since early childhood  with Port Fairy and the cottage with an understanding of living history and those who have come before.

How did this all come about?

In 1986 we were camping in the Grampians with our children and decided to head to the Lower Glenelg National Park. We stopped overnight in Port Fairy and never got any further. On our last day we decided to attend the auction of the cute little cottage under the Norfolk pine at the end of William St to see what was behind the doll’s house like façade… and the rest is history.*

We had experienced cottage accommodation in Tasmania. Even though this concept hadn’t yet hit the mainland we felt No.1 was perfect. It wouldn’t be the usual holiday house sitting empty and unused and was a way we could share this special little place with others.

The Studio’s journey has been a little different.

I am, amongst other things, an artist and once worked almost exclusively on textiles. My Studio was originally in the mudbrick “shed” at the bottom of our garden, in Somers. As the commercial side of my business grew in the early 90’s it started to take over our home and when the old beach shack up the road came on the market it was a logical move to make. The house was in a very poor state but it didn’t take much to make it a good working space. I would walk to the bus stop in front of the Studio every morning with my children. While they went to school, I went through the gate to work.

This was my creative space for several decades and was also used by my daughter Jess, at times, for her photographic work. Life changes, as did my work and the Studio deteriorated further. A decision was needed on whether to allow the Studio to deteriorate beyond repair or take some action.

Jess had worked between the US and Australia for many years. She had long dreamed of an old beach shack where she could live when she was here and rent to guests while she was away. She had never considered the Studio.

Jess was at the point of becoming a permanent resident in the US so the decision was made to turn the Studio into a habitable house that could be a home base for her and her, now, husband when in Australia. She would have a space that would house her furniture and books and anything else that was either too big or too heavy to carry with her on the plane. I would move my studio back to my mud brick shed… and also host guests closer to home. Something I’d long wanted to do.

How things have changed!

When we started welcoming guests in Port Fairy in early 1987 we were the only accommodation of its type in town. The world wide web and the digital world we now take for granted had not been heard of. We advertised through print media and took bookings over the telephone that was attached to the wall, with support from a manager in Port Fairy. The key was collected from a small gallery in Port Fairy and people paid by cheque. As times and guest expectations have changed we have moved with them. I believe accommodation was amongst the first to embrace the internet for marketing and sales. We launched our first website in 2000 and the Studio now has its own its own sister site.

One of our greater challenges more recently has been the impact of COVID. Time was spent keeping up with the changes in restrictions both for Greater Melbourne and Regional Victoria, juggling bookings with date changes and cancellations. No1 was supported by regional guests when able and I was fortunate to have some good long term guests at the Studio. I realized towards the end of our lock downs, when communication with guests about staying at the Studio returned, that this was something I had missed. A connection with interesting people who value what we enjoy. I still get immense pleasure sharing places we love with others.

*there is more on this part of the story at  about us

To see some of Jess’ work   www.jessgibbsphotography.com  @itisstillabeautifulworld

… And a glimpse of mine   @bronwengibbs