A New Stage: Aussie actor transformed a cabin in Victoria

Aussie actor transformed a cabin in Victoria Hepburn Springs, Hannah Fredericksen is not normally one to sit still. She chases her dreams, however ambitious they may be.

She chose a job far different to that of anyone in her family and practically “stalked” an area of Australia for 10 years, having her heart set on one day owning property there. Aussie actor transformed a cabin in Victoria Hepburn Springs: Born in Brisbane, Hannah is the only member of her family to forge a career in the arts. Mum, Sally, was a social worker and then what Hannah fondly calls the household CEO (stay-at-home parent), while dad, Ron, was a consultant in data analytics. Her brother, Ben, and sister, Emma, both work in the health sector, in the fields of optometry and speech pathology, respectively. She jokes that it was stupidity that got her into acting but “it really was a love of storytelling”, she admits.

“I have always loved entertaining. Some of my first memories are of making my family laugh.” However, she admits one family member may have played an influence in her life’s path. “My grandfather had a beautiful singing voice and he’d sing to my grandmother whenever we had a celebration,” she says. Hannah took up guitar and saxophone as a child and, like her granddad, eventually started singing. This led to a move to Melbourne in 2009 to study a bachelor’s degree in music theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, after which she stayed in the city and began exploring different forms of acting.

“I’ve been really lucky since I finished,” she says. “I’ve worked across genres, in film and television, theatre and music theatre.” Her most recent gig was starring in Australia’s longestrunning stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (February 2019 to July 2023), at Melbourne’s iconic Princess Theatre. For three and a half years, six days a week, Hogwarts would come to life on stage and Hannah would delight fans with her rendition of Moaning Myrtle. It was also during this time that she met her partner, Kane, on the dating app Hinge (“It’s a modern-day love story,” she laughs) with whom she recently moved to Geelong.

Hepburn Treehouse Revisit

As busy as she was, beginning a romance and entertaining crowds of people almost every night, and sometimes twice a day, Hannah would spend some of that time travelling between Melbourne’s vibrant CBD and the peaceful resort town of Hepburn Springs.“I first visited the area when I went there on a girls’
weekend while at university and I just fell in love with it,” she says. “I kept being drawn back there every time I’d be looking to book a weekend away or day trip.”

For the following decade, she kept an eye on the region’s realestate market and just as she thought she’d been priced out for good, a gem popped out of the woods. “I saw this tiny cabin come up and thought, ‘That’s got my name on it.’ Then I showed up and there were over 100 people at the inspection. I thought, ‘This is never going to happen.’” But it did and Hannah became the property’s proud owner last April. She’d soon spend all her “spare” time at the cabin, dubbed The Hepburn Treehouse, transforming it into a luxury holiday home befitting of its beautiful location.

A historic gold-mining town, Hepburn Springs is home to Australia’s largest concentration of mineral springs, where visitors flock to bathe in the health-giving waters. The nearby town of Daylesford is also a tourist hotspot, with its rich culture of arts, frequent festivals and performances, and streets that are lined with antiques shops, restaurants and cafes. Hannah’s cabin is located just down from the main street of Hepburn Springs, which is also a haven of good food and drink, and is a mere three-minute drive, or
10-minute walk, from the mineral springs.

“What’s lovely about it is you can literally park your car and not get back in it if you don’t want to for the weekend,” she says. It’s situated on a 500-square-metre block, which was originally part of a parcel of land that had been subdivided into five lots. “The architect that built the homes did an amazing job of making them all unique,” Hannah says. “All the homes have been hidden really well behind trees, so you feel like you have no neighbours.” Hannah’s cabin is the only one with a steeple roof, a striking characteristic that helped influence the direction of the cabin’s design.

Hepburn Treehouse Revisit

“When I first saw the place, I thought it really lends itself to a mid-century-modern design, which is an aesthetic I love,” she says. “I wanted it to be a space that felt luxurious but not pretentious, where you feel like you can still take your shoes off, sit on the ground and have a cocktail by the fire.” Due to the nature of her work, Hannah knew there would be times she couldn’t stay at the cabin, so the idea was for it to be a space she can share with others through sites such as Airbnb. Having given herself an ambitious deadline of five weeks, Hannah embarked on transforming the Treehouse, commuting back and forth from Melbourne for work (a three-hour round trip), in the middle of winter, with temperatures dropping to 3 degrees. “Looking back, I don’t know how I achieved it,” she says.

“It was madness! I’d be washing paint off my hands as they were calling 10 minutes to curtains up for the show.” The first thing she did was gut the bulky robes that were taking up too much space. She then painted the home’s exterior “a beautiful charcoal colour so it really fits into the landscape now”, she says. “It almost looks like the colour of charred trees after a bush fire.” She also painted the interiors and made several surface changes, such as the kitchen splashback and light fittings. “I did most of it myself, but had to hire some help, such as for the tiling,” she explains. As is expected, mistakes were made, having not undertaken a renovation before, but the actor is used to having to change course on a whim. “I did a lot of Googling and a lot of YouTubing and a lot of learning from doing things wrong. But I’m so used to adjusting my expectations as an actor,” she says.

“You’re constantly waiting to hear back from jobs and often you’ve got your heart set on something and it doesn’t work out, so you get used to dusting yourself off and changing directions. I remember guessing how many tiles I needed to buy by measuring the square meterage, but I got it wrong and the tiler was like, ‘You’ve only got enough to go up to here.’ So I said, ‘That’s just where it will go to then.’ I had to
replaster the wall, which I learned to do, and now I look at it and think it actually works better this way.”
Hannah furnished the cabin using mostly secondhand pieces, a lot of which she sourced from Facebook

Hepburn Treehouse Revisit

She also purchased some new items, such as the bed and couch from Australian-made furniture brand Eva. “I wanted some new things that would be timeless style wise and that would survive the wear and tear of lots of people being there,” she explains. “I also needed items with a quick turnaround time.” Outside, the garden is pretty well established. “The front of the house is wrapped in wisteria so in November it creates this big floor of purple,” she says. “And there’s a big pink blossom out the side of the bedroom window.”

Hannah admits the garden is still a work in progress and in fact she only just recently uncovered a garden path underneath some soil. “I love when a house reveals itself,” she says. While Hannah’s busy schedule has meant she hasn’t been able to stay at the Treehouse as often as she’d like, now since the show’s finished, she hopes to change that. She also soon plans to offer a free three-night creative residency-type program for someone to stay at the cabin and work on a project.

As for her next project, Hannah admits she’s still figuring that out. “That’s the beauty of the actor’s life,”
she says. “I want to be in one place for a while so I’m not looking for anything that takes me away for a long time. I just want to be still for a moment. Aussie actor transformed a cabin in Victoria Hepburn Springs!

Photography by Jen Tighe

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