THE architecture of coastal towns can be drearily utilitarian. But as we climb the drive of the Priory at Bingie and pass a wriggly iron sculpture that the children dub the "Dr Seuss windmill", it's clear we're in for something different.
Bingie is a scattering of homes just north of Tuross Head, and the Priory is the work of Barbara and Nick Romalis. The couple built their home about 20 years ago and ran it as a boutique B&B. Now both in their 80s, they have since moved into Barbara's nearby studio, with the house available as a self-contained stay. The Priory's double-storey stone section, with its Mediterranean wooden shutters and balcony, has bedrooms, an exhibition gallery and an enormous bathroom.
Adjoining the side of the building are the kitchen and living room, built in a shape Barbara describes as being like "the hull of a boat". The acoustics in this vast space are such that even if you speak in a whisper at the kitchen table, people can hear you at the other end of the room. The living room comfortably includes a long trestle table, grand piano, sofa and chairs near a fireplace, and another table for afternoon tea.
Barbara is an accomplished artist so a trip to the main bathroom takes guests along the gallery, past a cabinet of curiosities, bronze sculptures, ceramic heads, masks, assorted jewellery and pictures of all kinds, some of it for sale.
Past and present entwine here, as they do everywhere, but something funny happens to time at the Priory. It has whizzed past in a flash and we've barely left the house.
Address 67 Priory Lane, Bingie, NSW.
The verdict A large comfortable house for those who appreciate beautiful things. The garden is an added pleasure.
Price From $600 a night, minimum two-night stay between September and May. Linen packs $15 a person. Closed from June-August, so book for spring.
Bookings Phone 4473 8881, see bingie.com.
This is an edited extract from The Sydney Morning Herald's 2012 52 Weekends Away.