by Jonathan Leeming in Cool Travel on Tuesday 22 October 2013

Upon arrival at the Hatherley Birrell Collection, I immediately realised what a hidden gem this is. It’s marketed by husband and wife team, Jack and Rebecca, as art plus design plus accommodation ‘in that order’, which makes sense: as well as owning this incredible boutique guesthouse, they also run a design company together on the other side of town.

I’m shown into a sumptuous and lavishly decorated king suite, The Ballroom, so named because when the property was first built, around 1830, it was an actual ballroom. And true to this theme, the room’s artwork centres around the contemporary dance choreography of Graeme Lloyd Murphy AO.

Downstairs, in the smaller French-influenced Petite Matisse room, I’m staggered to see an original Matisse lithograph hanging at the foot of the bed. Yes, an original Matisse.

The artwork at the bed’s head was Bec’s concept: a large-scale blow-up of the old-style French poetry found on the back of the lithograph. The overall feel of the room is a fusion of classical with contemporary.

Being taken around the grounds, we walk past a 120 year-old magnolia tree around which Bec and Jack intend to design, create and build two new ‘pods’ to be used for artists in residence during the tourism off-season.

I’m then guided into their house, situated welcomingly adjacent to the guests’ rooms (of which there are only two; the other being a few minutes drive away on Tamar Street), where I’m bombarded by enough artwork to fill a small museum. The collection (hence the name of their business) comprises works by Joy Hester, Mirka Mora, Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman and John Perceval. Awesome.

But I don’t want to intrude, so I head back upstairs to my ballroom to get ready for my next adventure, trying not to forget the code for the keyless entry system that has done away with the need for a traditional reception desk and which allows Bec and Jack to operate two very successful businesses at once.