Backyard Bungalows: Alice and Otis

The second in our Backyard Bungalow series is a beautifully tiny abode belonging to Schoolhouse StudiosAlice Glenn and her pint-sized sidekick Otis, which is tucked away behind her Auntie’s place in Clifton Hill. The building itself has existed for several decades, but has been coaxed into its current (very comfortable) iteration thanks to a couple of renovations over the years. Alice gives us a window into her leafy little home.

Family hug outside the cabin. Photo by Ben Clement.

“I live in a self-contained bungalow out the back of my Auntie’s house in Clifton Hill, although it feels more like a cabin in the woods. I have a window on every side of the house with an aspect onto something green and leafy and a view up into the trees from my bed. I live here with my four “and a half” year old son Otis. He has the one bedroom and my bed is in the living room.

A well-worn and well-loved door, hinting at the many years this bungalow has been a place to call home (for Alice, and those before her). Photo by Ben Clement.
A perch plentiful with pots, adding to the leafy outlook from the living space. Photo by Ben Clement.

I’ve been visiting my cousins in this house for almost 30 years and the cabin has always been there. It was always a mysterious place where someone unknown was living and it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I actually went inside.

Not even a window frame is safe from being useful. Al hangs pots and pans from the hooks. Photo by Ben Clement.
The space is divided into distinct quarters for bathroom, living, kitchen, with a claw-footed tub in a nook off to one side. Photo by Ben Clement.

The shell of the cabin was already on the property when my Aunt bought it in 1988. They did the first renovation on it in 1989 and put in a bathroom and kitchen, but the bedroom was an addition for the arrival of my cousin Gracey’s daughter Beth 10 years ago.

Otis letting loose in the living room / Alice’s bedroom. Photo by Ben Clement.

My Aunt Fleur and my cousin Martha (aka Banoffee) live in the front house, but there are always weary travellers dropping in for a nourishing vegetarian meal and a rom-com in front of the fire. Apart from sharing a wine in the garden and tea and scones on a Sunday morning, I do my clothes washing in the main house and borrow cake tins when the occasion arises.

Lego master Otis. Photo by Ben Clement.

This house is the perfect size for Otis and I, just enough room to spread out and make a mess – but small enough that the housework doesn’t take over my life. (It takes me 10 minutes to clean up!) I love having the security of someone else living on the block and company is there if I get lonely.

I’ve realised that I don’t want a lot of space and I think I could even go a bit smaller! Although I’m not sure how Otis will feel about that in 10 years as he hits his teens. More space equals more time on housework and more space for stuff that I don’t need.

A cabin in the woods. Photo by Ben Clement.

There are so many aspects of this house that I love, but the sunlight, the big trees and the company are amongst the top five. Also the high ceiling and windows on every side!”

This guy, just so stoked to be here.
These guys too!

Alice says she’s thought about trying to recreate her cabin on a plot of land somewhere, but for now she feels “safe and comfortable and very, very happy.”

Photo by Ben Clement.

Many thanks to Alice and Otis for welcoming us inside their home. Alice co-directs dream artist complex Schoolhouse Studios along with her cousin Hazel Brown. They’re now all settled in to their new location in Collingwood (with a fit-out designed by AP good mate Murray Barker) and we highly recommend popping in. All photos by the talented lensman Ben Clement.