The curvaceous, organic lines gently rising from the earthy foundations of the old Mount Eliza child care site in Ranelagh Drive were clearly the handiwork of a visionary team. There was something really special emerging in the village.
That was back in 2011.
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Kimberlie Furness, one of the visionaries behind this landmark building and sustainable, purpose built centre of natural healing.
Her zeal for influencing wellness was transparent - from pre-natal care, to infancy and right through to helping a 99 year old client be the very best she can be.
We’re delighted to share some of her reflections on how Lotus has evolved into what it is today and why Mount Eliza as a community is thriving in wellness.
Foreword: Lotus represents much more than aesthetically beautiful design
Early on in our conversation, Kimberlie highlighted that Lotus is much more than an ambient and architecturally stunning building - it is a beautiful team of people. She reflected this throughout our conversation. Supporting this, the first comment we received on an Instagram photo we’d posted was a lovely sentiment about the team.
Today, Lotus is affectionately nestled within its stringy bark and paper bark bosom as though it was always meant to be.
This site that has nurtured generations of Mount Eliza’s children continues to be a centre for fostering community and well-being.
Good health, wellness and learning are at the very essence of what’s on offer at 17 Ranelagh Drive.
How 17 Ranelagh Drive came into being
A number of synergies aligned over time, to bring today’s celebrated Lotus Chiro into being.
The Lotus Chiro team had a bustling practice, located in Mount Eliza Way between Shop Ate Cafe and Ritchies IGA. Having opened back in 2003, the team were starting to outgrow their digs.
Kimberlie and her husband Michael both shared a dream of opening the centre of natural healing for the Mornington Peninsula, in Mount Eliza.
They knew the moment they saw the Ranelagh Drive site that this was the place. It simply felt right.
Interestingly, Kimberlie’s sister lived in the child care building that had been re-purposed as a home.
The owners of the property, Darcy and Rosemary, had a dream too.
“They loved this site too and held their own dreams once of building a home here.”
Over the years, the village had evolved and a double story building now overlooked the site. The commercial traffic that made its way up and down the lane way day and night meant that this was no longer an ideal spot for a residential home.
“Darcy and Rosemary surprised us by asking us to make them an offer. We couldn’t believe it!”
A pregnant pause
Kimberlie, Michael and the team thrived on the adrenaline as they took steps toward building this special place. As they were crafting their dream they found they were pregnant with their third child – daughter, Eve – nearly a ten year gap from younger son, Kobi.
Kimberlie shared that while having a daughter is wonderful for their family, at the time of discovering she was about to have another child, the dream at 17 Ranelagh suddenly felt too big.
“I wanted to sell up. Fortunately the initial trepidation passed as Michael almost had a heart attack when he thought we would have to sell the property we had worked so hard to finally buy.”
Kimberlie and Michael got beyond the initial discomfort, picked up the momentum and kept going - the future was in their sights.
Global design influences from Noumea, New Caledonia
From the moment that Darcy and Rosemary accepted their offer, Michael had conceptual sketches of the front facade and design of the building ready to hand over to local architect, Bruce Dawe.
Inspiration came from the aspect of the site and from the New Caledonian influences that architect Renzo Piano crafted the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea, New Caledonia, from.
Bruce took Michael’s sketches and together they converted the concept into the iconic sculptural building it is today.
Michael and Kimberlie wanted to weave the history of the site into the fabric of the Lotus building.
Sturdy materials that had absorbed the patina of a beloved child care centre were thoughtfully reclaimed and brought into the design.
The shelving behind the reception desk is an example, as is the whimsy of the reclaimed tree profile that forms the entrance to the children’s play area.
Sustainability is a key feature of the building’s fabric and design. Stunning, warm reclaimed timbers whisper history from the beautiful oak floors, to timber feature walls.
The reclaimed timber and glass feature wall is a focal point - a welcoming and solid sentry to the sculptural hallway that leads to the centre’s treatment rooms.
“While the timber is laid in parallel horizontally, the wall is organic so that from different view-points you can see the silhouette of the tree,” Kimberlie said.
Part of the sustainability ethos of the building included using local materials. The reclaimed timbers that weren’t salvaged from the child care centre were sourced from a Mornington Peninsula business that was reclaiming historic building materials.
The exterior and interior are exemplars of immaculate design that make the inherent warmth and friendliness of natural materials, shine.
And so, in November 2012, Lotus in Ranelagh Drive opened its doors to Mount Eliza and surrounds.
Mount Eliza people are proactive about their health
The Mornington Peninsula and Mount Eliza particularly, boasts a healthy concentration of natural therapists and practitioners.
This concentration has been driven by demand. Kimberlie believes that the people of Mount Eliza are wellness focused with less dependency on medications.
The centre collectively houses around 23 staff from a lactation consultant, to yoga and pilates teachers, to chiropractors – and a spectrum of wellness practitioners.
Lotus also works with other local wellness providers such as gyms and naturopaths to provide the community with personalised solutions.
“You can’t get all of your health needs from one practitioner, it definitely takes a team effort for optimal health and well-being,” she said.
Kimberlie grew up here on the Peninsula. Her father, Max Furness, ran a butcher shop in the village for 30 years. Now Kimberlie’s family work with her in the business. Her father works as a remedial massage therapist, bringing 20 years of experience. I met Max just as I was leaving and the pride he felt for what his daughter, Michael and the team had achieved was evident.
“I work here, my wife works here part-time, and our grand daughter has been working on reception too. It’s a great team environment," Max said.
A moment of relief created a fervour for natural healing
Kimberlie’s career path has been a focused and considered one, from when she was 12 years old.
She was playing the Mornington Peninsula tennis competition but migraine headaches were wiping her out of a sport she loved. Her parents were advocates of the natural healing process and not ones to medicate. They took Kimberlie to a chiropractor in Mornington – Leonie Guest.
The feeling of elation at the alleviation of pain as a direct result of Leonie’s chiropractic care, led to a transformational decision about shaping her future career.
“My passion is working with children, ensuring their bodies are growing and developing optimally. If a child moves well, they learn well’, Kimberlie said.
“I love teaching children how magical their bodies are, that they have the power to heal themselves.”
Kimberlie’s natural tendency to share knowledge as an educator of her healing craft, meant that I left Lotus enlightened about the possibilities of natural healing and what it means for the well-being of an entire community.
To find out more about Lotus
t: 9787 8288
Article funded by Vicki Sayers, Live Love Mount Eliza | Written by Julie Pearce, Content Services Melbourne