Welcome to Katsura Haus, a detached secondary residence in a garden and bush setting in Canberra's convenient inner north. Passivhaus building components and design combine with Japanese touches inside and out to create a unique, comfortable and peaceful space. Local shops and public transport a short walk away. EPIC, Mt Majura and tram within walking distance (10-15 minutes). The city and major cultural institutions 10-15 minutes by car. Sorry, no visitors--only guests in the cottage.
Katsura Haus is a spacious, cottage guesthouse in the backyard of our house in the inner north central Canberra suburb of Watson. It is quirky, unique and very comfortable. It is an owner-built, completely detached and private garden apartment completed in 2017 to passivhaus standard. The 'Haus' in 'Katsura Haus' is a nod to 'passivhaus'. The house has beautiful triple-glazed windows and doors throughout, offering outstanding insulative and sound-proofing properties to the building. The walls and roof have a very high levels of insulation and are wrapped tightly in advanced airtight membranes. In Canberra's harsh winter, of course, we still need some heating, but the need, and the cost, is much reduced.
The 'Kastura' in 'Katsura Haus' is a reference to a weeping katsura tree at the entrance to the cottage. We planted it when we first bought the main house in 1997. The tree is almost 20 years old but, due to its weeping form, is still only a relatively small four-metre tree. It now stands at the south-western corner of the cottage as a bit of an obstacle that visitors and guests must navigate on their way to the entrance. But you will love its delicate pink-tinged leaf buds in spring and then the luxuriant vibrant lime green of the mass of heart-shaped leaves and heavy drooping foliage as summer approaches. The summer sun is very tough on the katsura and many of the top leaves tend to wither and dry as summer ends. It is probably why its autumn colour is limited to a yellowing of its sunburnt leaves rather than a range of autumnal tones associated with the tree.
The katsura is a Japanese tree and so the name of the guesthouse also alludes to the fundamental Japanese connection in our family and so in the design choices and influences. The Japanese touch is strongly evident both inside and outside the house. Inside the house we have antique dansu (chests) as major pieces of furniture and numerous decorative items. Of course, the Japanese bath will be a standout feature for those who have travelled in Japan and miss the pleasures of the ofuro. The colour palette of the exterior of the building is reminiscent of traditional Japanese kura (storehouses). The garden and landscaping also have many Japanese touches.
Katsura Haus is perfect for one or two people and so is limited to a maximum of two guests.And we do have a guests-only house rule. For privacy and transparency reasons, we do not allow visitors. the cottage is a fully detached and self-contained spacious secondary residence of 65 square metres surrounded by private walkways, gardens, pergolas and outside spaces. Entry is separate and screened and, once inside, you are in another world: quiet, comfortable and inviting within, but intimately connected to the garden and adjacent heavily treed reserve via the feature corner windows. Direct access to the back reserve and the walking track can be gained via a lockable gate in the back fence.
Off-street visitor parking for one vehicle is available in the gravel driveway in front of the separate Katsura Haus entry. The entry gate and pathway(s) are separate from the main house and are, for the most part, flat and easily traversable. (There are two steps and the stone paving is a little uneven.) There is ample sensor security lighting to illuminate the pathway and entrance from the car-parking space all the way into the cottage. Adjacent to the path into the cottage is a dedicated bike port and a small storage hut. Guests are welcome to use the bikes and helmets and/or use the little storehouse for storage.
The front door of Katsura Haus opens directly into the large main room, a combination open plan living/dining/kitchen. With the filtered sun streaming in through the trees on a winter's morning, it is a spacious and light-filled room with quite a wow factor. The feature windows and door on the northern corner create a stunning conservatory atmosphere, integrating the building with the garden and adjacent bushland reserve. Full-length 3.25-m sheer curtains on the feature corner windows accentuate the generous vertical proportions of the room, and create a luxurious and cosy ambience in the evening (or the daytime, for that matter.)
The kitchen is relatively large, with ample bench and cupboard space, a full-size oven and gas cooktop. If guests intend to do some cooking they will need to adjust the building ventilation settings manually to 'party mode' in order to assist with the extraction of cooking smells. I will provide guests with information and a pre-stay briefing of the basic ventilation settings required for their stay. There is a small, separate laundry off the kitchen area with a washing machine, tub and additional cupboards.
The living area is configured into a cosy lounge and TV corner; a conservatory type sitting and reading area in front of the feature windows; and a dining table and chairs. There is a large-screen television with Apple TV (YouTube, Netflix, and ABC iView) and a DVD player. There is a good selection of DVDs, including Japanese titles. There is a quality bluetooth hifi system, so you can pair your mobile device easily and stream your own music. Katsura Haus is wifi enabled with, usually, good download speeds.
Katsura Haus has one compact bedroom with a QS bed, bedside tables and a built-in wardrobe. The bedroom has an ensuite toilet, shower and separate Japanese ofuro (bath) area. The sleeping and bathroom arrangements were designed for, and are suited to, a single resident or a couple. An extra futon (mattress bedding on the floor) can be provided where a separate bed is required, but the futon would need to be in the living room, forcing access to the bathroom for the second guest via the occupied bedroom.
Watson is an inner north suburb of Central Canberra established in about 1960. It has tree-lined streets of mature, mostly deciduous, trees and many parkland spaces. It also borders Majura reserve, and Katsura Haus faces directly onto parkland that connects to the reserve. The area has abundant, and at times raucous, birdlife (crimson and eastern rosellas, sulphur-crested cocktoos, galahs, king parrots, honeyeaters, currawongs and magpies being the most common) Possums are a regular sight. Kangaroos are abundant further up the walking track toward Mt Majura.
The local Watson shops are about 7 minutes on foot. There you will find a good supermarket, a Vietnamese and a Filipino restaurant, a takeaway, a very popular cafe, and a pharmacy/post office. You can catch buses here to Dickson (5 mins) and the city (10-15 mins).
A little further away but in close proximity (5 minutes by car) is the Dickson Centre, a major suburban shopping and restaurant precinct. The centre has a public library, a major Woolworths supermarket, banks, Harris Scarf, a newsagency, pharmacy and fast food outlets. The Woolley and Badham Street area is known as a 'Chinatown' restaurant precinct, but has a large number of restaurants, including those offering Indian, Lao, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese Turkish and Ethiopian cuisine. Many of these offer free home delivery for orders over a specified size. There are also a number of bars and the Tradesmen's Club.
In close proximity (8-10 mins walk) is Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) where regular events are held, including, for example, the National Folk Festival. The Saturday morning farmers market is a very popular regular event at the northern end of the EPIC complex, attracting a vast number of stallholders offering a wide variety of regional produce and specialty food items. It is a popular destination for breakfast and an easy walk down the back path.
Watson, ACT, Australia