Partnerships that do more than just tell a story - Wikloe
Nadia from team Wikloe sets the scene perfectly with her beautiful words about their creation - "We set out to create a sanctuary that encompassed an indoor/outdoor experience at every turn, one that provides an abundance of natural light, is raw in colour palettes and textures, re-claimed materials, and other materials that not only embody characteristics of nature but also reflect each team member's unique creative expression – every stroke, ripple, shape and cut, perfectly imperfect, just like mother nature herself".
The result for the trio was 'The Retreat House' nestled in Capertee Valley, NSW – the widest canyon in the world – and roughly a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney via the Blue Mountains. This place no only speaks thruth to their vision but, as Nadia describes "it represents perfectly nature's universal power to connect us all to something deeper than our most basic needs and desires, so what better place to disconnect, re-energise and be inspired than a place like this!"
Below we chatted to the amazing Wikloe Trio to gain some real insight into their creative journey…
1. Firstly, tell us about the three of you (sorry, 4 can't forget Bentley) and how this partnership/adventure came about.
Nadia is from Sydney and has a legal background; Ferg is from Dublin, with experience in carpentry and furniture design. Mark, who's from Northern Ireland, has a background in carpentry and building. And Bentley's knowledge, of course, is in being a Good Boy.
With interests in storytelling and creative ideas, Nadia always suspected that law wasn't the right fit. After years of thinking about course-correcting to pursue something more, she was inspired to create a business that aligned with her values and ideals. At the start of the pandemic, she took a leap of faith and left her job as a lawyer to pursue the vision of Wikloe. For as long as she remembers, Ferg had talked about his dream of building cabins and treehouses, and Mark also shared a similar vision of cabin and campervan building. Over the years, she saw first-hand how talented Mark and Ferg are at building and working with materials, so approaching them with the idea was a natural choice. It didn't take much convincing for everyone to get on board with the vision. There was a large element of naivety in terms of the work that lay ahead, but in hindsight, and what we know now, no project worth pursuing would ever get started without a healthy dose of naivety.
2. What was your vision and reason behind it all?
Wikloe is a culmination of many little nature-induced epiphanies towards a slower, more meaningful life. While studying business and law and working in the legal industry, Nadia experienced burnout, depression and an existential crisis that seemed to last nearly a decade. She quietly longed for meaning and purpose - which couldn't be found in the office - whilst also keeping up appearances of wanting to climb the ladder and maintaining that frenetic lifestyle. Spending time away in nature over weekends was the most powerful way to cut out the noise, become present and think about how she wanted to spend her time and energy and experience life. The amount of 'ah-ha' moments that followed trips in nature was countless, all of which, when pieced together, gave clarity and pushed her further towards her version of freedom. The vision behind Wikloe was to create a sacred and inspiring space that galvanised inspiration, epiphanies and self-realising insights that so often come when we're removed from the oppression of modern life and dwarfed by nature, which makes our self-imposed limits pale in comparison. If staying at Wikloe helps reconnect just one person to their truth and inspires them to take the smallest step towards their freedom and joy, then there's nothing more we could ask for by sharing this space with others.
3. What is the story behind the name Wikloe and its significance to you?
The first of these nature-induced epiphanies occurred in the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. In 2015, between degrees, Nadia went backpacking solo across Europe and Africa for a year to figure out her life's direction. And on that trip, she met Ferg at a music festival, who invited her to Ireland to explore his family's extraordinary place in the Wicklow Mountains. It's a place that Ferg is infinitely lucky to have spent his life building memories in and has since become one of the most significant places for Nadia and a place at which the team has shared lifelong memories. But on that first day, after wandering the woods for eight hours, the beauty of this natural wonderland moved her to tears, along with a flood of insight and inspiration for more depth in experience and a simpler way of living. It was the day the seed was first planted, which would grow over the following years. It would be impossible to describe what the Wicklow Mountains mean to us sufficiently. But it invokes that expansive feeling one gets anywhere in nature if one takes the time to sit still and marvel at its wonders and our intrinsic place within it.
4. How do you feel when you're there?
The minute you get onto the country road, the worries of the city melt away and seem so insignificant (and most of them are). Wikloe is a space that invites big, deep breaths, and the surrounding landscape offers no other option or desire than to be present with the environment, yourself and your company. The mountain that dominates the scene is awe-inspiring and much larger than it looks in photographs - everything about the landscape is grand and reminds you of how small yet connected you are to the world. Stargazing is a highlight; at night, the Milky Way wraps the globe like a thick, sparkling belt – it is probably the brightest sky we've seen, and we've seen many night skies around the world.
5. What drew you to this location?
Capertee Valley has an other-worldly quality that makes you feel like you're entering a new dimension of raw, natural beauty. The location is characterised by rugged mountains, natural monoliths and sandstone cliffs, formed over millions of years and is home to abundant wildlife. When you visit and settle into the valley, it feels like the surrounding canyon is holding you.
6. What is so special about this location?
This location is nestled in the widest canyon in the world and is surrounded, on all sides, by UNESCO World Heritage-listed national parks and historic Australian towns. It was important that the space offered equally fulfilling experiences for visitors, whether they choose to relax at the Retreat House for the duration of their stay or venture out for day explorations. We also love visiting the nearby towns – Rylstone and Kandos – home to a small, artistic community that display their work at the markets and quirky little stores.
7. What is different about Wikloe's 'The Retreat House' compared to other properties people can visit?
Well, first of all, we designed, sourced all materials and built the Retreat House with our bare hands. That was important to us for a few reasons: to capture the uniqueness of our creative expression and vision and our love for authentic and handmade craft, a forgotten art in a world that favours convenience and fast factory-made products. Building the Retreat House was also essential from a sustainability perspective, as so much building waste is discarded during any given build. Making it ourselves, using minimal materials and re-purposing salvaged wood and triple off-cuts ensured our ability to control and discard waste responsibly. With some sacrifices made for a clean, uniform aesthetic, very little was wasted. It is also off-grid, tying in with our desire to make as little an imprint as possible on the natural world, and a tree is planted with every booking.
8. What other special features does the property have that helps folk get off the grid and to spend more time connected to the land?
The Retreat House was designed to be a self-led retreat. We have yoga mats, bolsters and a grounding yoga class specially recorded by our dear friend Jess Verdier of Sanctuary Online; we stock DIY Pottery Kits by our friends at Crockd for those wanting to drop into their creativity; a selection of Reiki-infused herbal tea by the beautiful Agatha Carmen of Sanas Rituals together with a meditation she recorded just for our guests. General features of the space include a four-person deck hammock, huge skylights in the loft to stargaze in bed, day beds that face the mountain, an indoor and outdoor kitchen, a shower that opens to the outdoors, and an epic campfire set up… the list goes on. From the outset, we intended to create a seamless indoor-outdoor experience for our guests, so there are many ways to connect with nature in and around the Retreat House.
9. How long did it all take and be honest, was it all smooth sailing?
The build took about three full months and some weekends over another two months. And it absolutely wasn't all smooth sailing. With lockdowns, supplier delays and general material shortages, we had a few bumps in the road, but we mostly managed to turn every hiccup into a laugh as it got to a point where things moved beyond our control. Also wouldn't recommend quitting your day job at the start of a global pandemic, as that adds a layer of spice to the mix.
10. What has been the greatest lesson you have learnt and will take with you on further adventures?
That you can create anything you desire once you overcome fear and self-limiting beliefs about how things are or "should be". It's remarkable how many limiting stories we tell ourselves about our worth, abilities and life. Wikloe isn't some global conglomerate, but building it has given us a level of confidence we may never have had to venture into other passion projects.
11. What makes your team work so well together?
Our core values align, which is the most important thing. And we work hard to support each other towards our common goals but appreciate a good tune and having a laugh which makes working together light and fun. We all love to create in our own ways and have strengths that balance "weaknesses" in the team. For instance, Nadia is very focused on how a space looks and feels, which isn't always practical, especially when working with a tiny footprint. And Ferg and Mark love creating beautiful but practical contraptions and were the ones to veto design ideas that wouldn't work with the space. So, our team has a beautiful, synergistic dynamic... any impractical features of the Retreat House were likely debates they let her have.
12. What or who was your inspiration?
Everything about Wikloe is inspired by nature: the name, the design, the materials, the palette, the building method, the focal experience we want guests to have, creation and creativity, the source of which derives from nature. There isn't one aspect about Wikloe that isn't inspired by nature.
13. What was your favourite part of the process?
Designing and building the Retreat House. It was a challenging time but one of the most fun and rewarding projects we have ever worked on. Nothing compares to having a vision in your mind's eye, putting pencil to paper, tool to hand and manoeuvring it from the ether into physical form. And that goes for creating anything. The whole process also brought us closer and is something we are individually and collectively so proud of achieving. We still laugh in disbelief about all the in-between moments, which is a beautiful thing to share with friends.
14. What are your top 5 must-haves in life?
Time in nature; Good music; White space to think, create and be; Quality time – with self and others; Self-care, in every way.
15. What do you do when you're not creating beautiful tiny houses?
You'll likely find us outside at the beach or a national park. Ferg spends his time surfing, watching surf and woodworking documentaries and building unique pieces of furniture (you should see the house). Mark also spends his time surfing, swimming, painting and building pieces. You'll find Nadia writing, reading, doing yoga or snuggling with Bentley.
16. Is this the first of many more Wikloe Retreat Houses to come?
We're enjoying this moment of pause to explore other passions, but we would absolutely love to build more down the track.
17. What's the Wikloe Team working on now?
We're currently working on individual passion projects: creative writing work; a project focussed on self-inquiry; painting; restoring antiques; creating unique timber pieces, and some newly surfaced ideas. www.wikloe.com Photography by Deanna Gerlach (Pony Rider) and Jack Durr (Wikloe)