Back in 2016, seventeen-year-old horticulture student Harrison Balodis couldn’t have known that a two-week stay in Lotte’s Hjem would change his life. Working at the local hardware store, he was approached by local resident, Lotte, who asked him to house-sit her historic cottage while she went away. So began his very own Belle Époque.
At the end of his two-week sojourn, Harrison jokingly said to Lotte, “If you ever want to sell it, please let me know because I’ve fallen in love with your cottage!” By the time he was 21, Lotte had taken him up on his proposition, offering the 150-year-old home to Harrison for sale.
“Hjem” is Norwegian for “home”, so Lotte’s Hjem (pronounced “Lot-ees Him”) pays homage to its original owner, who still lives nearby and watched the little house be lovingly restored by Harrison and his wife, Miranda over the coming months and years to create the most welcoming, character-filled guesthouse imaginable.
A swift move to Sydney to pursue their careers sparked the idea to allow others to stay in the cottage and, inspired by properties such as Captains Rest, the creative couple bucked the trend for hotels in the area and channelled their hospitality experience and love of vintage homewares into a unique homestay. “We saw the potential in Pambula and thought there was an opportunity to really make an amazing experience here,” says Miranda.
The brave move paid off but it took a global pandemic and the magic of social media to really spread the word about this extraordinary cottage. The area had already been impacted by bushfires and the pair were worried about getting people to stay, but as soon as travel bans lifted, they started to come in droves.
And why not? From the moment you swing open the little garden gate and pass beneath an arbour of wisteria, the white-painted charm of Lotte’s Hjem embraces you. A pretty courtyard garden hugs the side of the 1880s cottage while shoes crunch a gravel pathway all the way to the door, swung open to reveal the stuff weekend dreams are made of.
Historic Pambula – itself a melting pot of coast-meets-country – is smack in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne, making Lotte’s Hjem perfect for a languid stopover between the two, or a glorious destination in itself. The celebrated Sapphire Coast is loaded with things to explore and a stay at Lotte’s is like a visit to the seachange abode of a close friend, leaving you utterly relaxed and rested.
Settle in for a comfy, cosy weekend at any time of year – bask in the morning light during spring, perched on vintage stools drawn up to a swing-out kitchen servery window, or kick back around a courtyard dining table with your favourite playlist in the background, shucking local oysters and drinking wine, as the autumn leaves fall around you.
Proving your hosts have thought of every detail, a fully equipped, eat-in country kitchen is stacked with a mouthwatering cookbook collection beneath a mantelpiece lined with raffia-clad wine bottles. If this doesn’t stir home cooks into action, dash out for pastries from the Wild Rye Baking Co, brunch at Toast Cafe or book a meal at Banksia Restaurant – all are a brief stroll away along the main street of Pambula.
Later, you’ll snuggle into quaint-yet-comfy armchairs and deep linen sofas, plumped with hand-crocheted blankets and take in the glow of a wood-burning stove, shared over a bottle of wine and a cheese plate.
As conversation and slow-cooked meals give way to tiredness, traipse across the original timber floorboards to climb into robust vintage beds in your choice of three beautifully appointed bedrooms. Lie in comfort and ponder pressed-metal-lined walls and ceilings, handmade linen curtains and plush bedding, layered with floral coverlets beneath artfully displayed vintage pieces.
When you finally swing the gate closed behind you and head home, you’ll be inspired to replace your own sheets with 100% linen, hang hydrangeas to dry and rummage through Grandma’s heirlooms with fresh eyes.
Lotte’s Hjem now fights off accommodation enquiries at peak times, causing Miranda and Harrison to turn a second property, called The Homestead, Bega, into boutique accommodation. But that’s another story…
BOOK A STAY AT LOTTE’S HJEM HERE.
Explore the Sapphire Coast around Lottes Hjem
Within a stone’s throw of Lotte’s Hjem are the hard-working dairy mecca of Bega, and the historic coastal drawcard Tathra with its colossal, crowd-pulling pub. A short drive away is sparkling seaside Merimbula with white beaches and sweeping views and oyster-loving, seal-sunning Narooma, now beset by the Merivale Group to welcome city folk with burgeoning bars, beachside cafes and chic restaurants.