Wednesday, 22 October 2014


I once had a Hobbit Hole fascia on a brick wall in my backyard. It looked nice but I couldn’t open up that door and step inside. Because it was exposed thus susceptible to bad weather it eventually had to be pulled down.

 You see I have this thing about JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, not so much the books these days. I discovered better written and more exciting sagas years ago but the movies. Their design and production impress me no end.
 So one of the items on my bucket list was to one day have a real Hobbit Hole in my back yard. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet but I believe I now have the next best thing a Hobbit House. It took several years and some really nice people but it happened.

 The Hobbit house frame and interior was originally built bylocal artist  Jamin Swaneveld over five years ago when he ran Willowwoods just outside of Belgrave in the Dandenongs East of Melbourne.
 Jamin planned to set the frame into the bank of the creek that ran beside the property where Willowwoods had its gardens and little hexagonal shed/store.
Willowwoods sadly folded for various reasons but providence favours the brave and talented and Jamin went onto establish Last Frontier Tattoos in Upwey and gained for himself a successful business and a reputation as a masterful inker with a waiting list of up to year.
The Framework as originally built.
The unrealised Hobbit house followed Jamin to Last Frontier with the hope of maybe completing it as a more basic version and use it as the counter for the shop.
But where Willow Woods was a gentler more whimsical place. Last Frontier –which Jamin has designed and built himself- is more steam punk with a tilt towards the strange and mythical. The shop having an atmosphere of a 19th Century Apothecary and Curio Shop, so the Hobbit house didn’t ideally fit the shop theme. So it was put out the back because Jamin really didn’t want to get rid of it with all the work he had done on it.
Jamin's original inside work.
See video

From the side.

 Around November 2013 I paid a visit to Jamin at Last Frontier to see what marvels he had added to the shelves in his shop and especially to see a new display cabinet he had made to house his lovely old medicine bottle collection. As it does talk returned to the old Willowwood days and the “what ifs” and “could’ve beens” and Jamin mentioned the Hobbit house was still around the back of the shop. Still in excellent condition hidden under a large cover and buried under other bits and pieces that needed sorting or disposal.
 It was then that he offered it to me if I was willing to take it. What would I do with an incomplete Hobbit house? Where would I put? Did I know what I was doing?

 It didn’t matter. I said “Yes and thank you.”

A couple of days before Christmas I organised with my step son Kris to hook up the trailer and pick up the frame and plonk it in my shed. I spent the next couple of weeks telling friends and family “Look what I got for Christmas”.

It was during the Christmas break that I had to sit down and think exactly what my opinions were. My goal was to finish the original idea of setting up the Hobbit house in situ to the best of my abilities while showcasing the interior and enhancing its qualities.
The new site for the Hobbit House.
Originally the Whomping Willow

Though the Hobbit house looked just like a wooden crate from the outside, inside Jamin had built a lovely panelled room complete with fire place. Because the frame was being into a bank and the widest part was to support the fascia, Jamin inserted a mirror on a 45 degree angle to create the illusion that the room extended into the bank but was in fact running along the front behind the front door.
 Though Jamin had created a wonderful interior it still needed a  list of items before installation such as a viewing window, to seal off an open end that was the access to the interior, water proof the unit as well as  install lighting for illuminating and effects. All this and creating a complete fascia and roof to make the whole structure come alive. Whereas Jamin’s original idea would have become a Hobbit hole I would have to build a Hobbit house similar to what Samwise Gamgee lived in at 3 Bagshot Row.
  In other words it would be a free standing house.

Before I could start I had to remove
the rest of the tree and the trampoline.
 I didn’t have a creek running through my backyard or have a large fall on my property to cut into I did however have a spot under a nice tree that when levelled looked like the tree was  growing out of the top of the house. But before I started that there was fun to be hd with the design of the outside. Having been made redundant from my job only weeks before I was given the frame I was not in the position to throw lots of money at the project so I needed to budget and not get too carried away with plans in case I couldn’t buy food or the wife killed me. Whichever came first. Luckily I have a garage full of bits and pieces and the initial layout for materials was minimal.
It also meant a lot of pick and shovel swinging to prepare the site where the house would eventually sit.

 I spent the rest of the summer planning, building, rejecting, planning and building again until I felt I had the right feel. Jumping from inside the shed to work on the frame and outside to level and prepare the area where it would sit. This was usually interrupted by a day trip with the missus where no matter where we went I found some other little inspiring titbit to enhance the house whether it be a certain colour, texture or garden ornament. It was on one of these outing that I found brass candelabra that with a bit of modifications became the chandelier.


The Fire Place with LEDs.

Working Lights
When I was happy with the inside arrangements I made another trip to visit Jamin to show him what I had done and how it was going to look.
It was on this trip that he reminded me of an idea he had for the end of the hallway where he had a door partially open and back lit to give the impression that there was more happening further back in the house. I had totally forgotten this and had already spent a considerable amount of time and effort making a neat little door but fixed in position. But the idea was too good to ignore and I redesigned again. The door aside Jamin was quite pleased with the progress and was impressed by the little fake flame burning away in the fireplace with the use of LED lighting. Come the start of autumn it was time to test the structure and I placed it outside to test its weatherproofing and durability.

Getting ready for winter.
Kris doing the electrics
Nice and dry

By August I was content it was sturdy enough after some winter storms that where so strong one took out my shed when a large tree fell through it and the shopping centre down the road flooded. The Hobbit house neither fell apart nor leaked (unlike the shed) so it was time for the final stage the electrics, window dressing and garden.

Kris , who you may remember helped me moved the frame back home also designed the lighting. Being a 4th year apprentice electrician and working in 3 watt LEDs using a 24 Volt transformer I was confident that the house was safe and not liable to catch fire or blow out any fuses. Actually Kris’ design and installation brought the project a whole new life by using the mirror to highlight low areas and the false perspective of the door look quite realistic. The winters rain and spring sunshine had given the path and surrounding grass a chance to settle in and with the fitting of the synthetic grass, chimney and fence the house was taking shape. Ideally it would have been nice to have a larger front garden but I was restricted by the gate way that links next door house and I wasn’t quite prepared to block that off as we have a great relationship with our neighbour.

When the local newspaper rang and asked if they could send ‘round a photographer, the wife and I went into overdrive to pretty up the garden and add some wildlife to the lawn roof.

It made us work quickly and use our gut feeling about what looked best. All up I’m quite satisfied with the result.