Australia's most beautiful mountain escape
Blame it on the extremely strong Saturn (synonymous with the cold) in my birth chart or maybe growing up in the blistering Queensland humidity, but when it comes to dream holiday destinations I’ll take snow and ice over sunshine and blue skies any day of the week. And while Aussie alpine holidays punch well above their weight in the natural beauty stakes, the accommodation options mountain-side are (for the most part) stuck somewhere between the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (and not in a cool, ironic way).
So when I came across The Eastern at Thredbo in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, I was pretty bloody excited. Not just because it’s an oasis of understated cool in a sea of tired, overpriced Airbnbs, either. But because I know all too well, from my time spent editing an interiors magazine, the kind of power a space can have on our mood. Photographer Monique Easton, the owner and mastermind behind The Eastern agrees. “There is a definite relationship between architecture and psychology,” Monique says. “I find the mountain environment to be very calming, the fresh mountain air, snow-capped hills and the flowing river. I’ve tried to echo this calm with the choice of art, combining restraint and comfort in equal measure. Also by exaggerating the feeling of spaciousness and keeping the colour palette muted and textural and incorporating organic materials like wood, stone, leather and brass – all principles of Japanese, Belgian and Scandinavian minimalism – which are known for their calming effect on one’s mood.”
Monique’s design ethos is a study in mindfulness. “Living simply is something that has come naturally to me… Growing up, environmentally, I was forced to stay true to myself and became very confident in knowing myself and my own values,” Monique says. “I enjoy quality over quantity. I love working with compact spaces because it challenges you to refine what is only truly needed. Living simply is a way of living that honours resourcefulness, mindfulness and treading lightly.”
Here, Monique shares the inspiration for creating the Oak apartment and Cedar cabin - the two dreamy properties that comprise The Eastern.
What’s your personal connection to thredbo?
We always went to Thredbo as kids, my dad used to race when he was younger and he worked with the Paralympic team, training for competition and manufacturing their sit-skis. If we went on family holidays, it was always a ski holiday and not much has changed. I think most keen skiers are like this, it becomes a bit of an obsession. Being out on the slopes, flying past trees and over mountain ranges, this is my version of being at one with nature.
I started skiing at Thredbo when I was two and a half and I’ve been going every year since. My parents met in Thredbo at House of Ullr, when my mother was doing a gap year. She was cleaning my dad’s room and decided to help herself to a slice of his peanut butter toast in the kitchen. My dad came back to pick up something from the room and caught her, mid-bite. The rest is history.
What are your favourite design aspects in The Eastern?
I’ve always been interested in art, I love the way it pulls a space together and creates mood. I think the way Nicholas has designed the Cedar Cabin kitchen in a series of low-tech insertions is very smart. The original L-shaped kitchen was replaced with a ‘dry’ utility wall and a ‘wet’ island with a dining component. The extent of the kitchen can swell during cooking and deflate for dining, which is important when living with compact spaces.
The Onsen style bath for two is lined in glazed Japanese ceramics, this is always popular with guests after a day on the mountain. I love sleeping upstairs in the loft of the Cedar Cabin. The original architect, Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke designed the double height, pitched roofline to increase the feeling of space on the lower level of the cabin, while creating enough height for a loft area bedroom. The ceiling is clad in textural, rough-sawn timber and when lying bed the ceiling slopes down in front of you, almost like a tent, It’s very cozy. The whole process of climbing up the ladder to get to the loft area feels very European and removed from day to day life.
How have principles of “living simply” influenced the design and aesthetic of The Eastern?
I was influenced by my time in Naoshima, the art island in Japan. The island very much adheres to the principles of living slow, with Ando’s calm, shrine like architecture and most of the transportation being by foot or pushbike – which is similar to Thredbo in the way people move around. After being in Naoshima I was interested in how a space makes you feel. I find the mountain environment to be very meditative and I’ve tried to echo this in the design, emphasising the clean lines and making the view of Mount Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest mountain) the focal point of the space. I have always lived by quality over quantity, inspired by Dieter Rams’ ‘less, but better’ approach and I couldn’t help but let that philosophy flow into my renovations.
what makes The Eastern different?
I felt like Thredbo was lacking modern accommodation, which is why I decided to renovate my first space. There’s a common theme in the village of squeezing in as many beds as possible, with no goal other than maximum capacity. This was something I wanted to avoid.
I think climbing up the ladder of the Cedar Cabin to get to the loft bedroom (pictured below) and sleeping amongst the woodgrain of the ceiling, which is rough and textural adds to a rugged, outdoorsy experience. I feel like modern travellers expect an experience, not just a place to sleep.