A Vision Realised, A Dream SharedVision without action is merely a dream.
Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world.
(Joel A Barker)
It takes vision. It takes talent. It takes commitment. And it takes incredible courage to tackle a project the size and dimension of Grenfell Hall in Central New South Wales … turning it into the amazing homage to Victoriana country living that it is today. Warwick Crampton is the gifted visionary who, with the basic help of a specialist tradesmen, has turned the two-storey residence into much more than a gracious period-appointed home which he proudly shares with invited guests.
Grenfell Hall is testament to one man’s commitment to detail, seen in every part of every room of the home … a home which can truly be described as a ‘step-back-in-time experience of classic refinement and elegance’. Grenfell Hall is also the coming to fruition of a vision that has changed the world of its owner and, by extension, that of the growing list of special guests who have ventured along to experience this unique piece of Australian country hospitality and elegant, eclectic post-Victorian style.
The décor and appointments of Grenfell Hall – so named by Warwick in a return to the property’s original appellation as given by its founder, Billy Robinson, in 1907 – are truly inspirational, especially in terms of the amount of care and attention to detail that has been lavished on every room. Many aspects of the interior are also a direct reflection of the fact that, throughout the years and his many professional overseas postings, Warwick has collected an enormous cache of marvellous treasures and memories of past adventures, these now filling every part of the Hall.
As Warwick explains, despite its fine Victorian appointments, Grenfell Hall was actually built in the Edwardian period. It’s original owner, Billy Robinson, was a successful pastoralist. Owner of Myee Station, he built the home as a private ‘town’ residence and lived here until the early 1920s when the home was sold to a Mr Simpson who was, at the time, the Mayor of Grenfell. In the mid 1950s, it was sold to the Catholic Church and became a convent, with eight teaching nuns from the Order of St Joseph living here. It was during this time that a chapel was added, giving rise to many local people still referring to the old mansion as ‘The Convent’.
When the Church sold the home in 1972, the Hall was to see a succession of various owners and gradually fell into disrepair. It was converted into flats at one point and little maintenance was done until, in 1997, the old home was purchased by a gentleman named Darryl Tempest-Mogg and his wife. And so began a painstaking restoration process to bring the property back to life. “The Tempest-Moggs where the first to lavish care and attention on the old place in decades. Their vision was to re-appoint many of the period features of the past … a mission they admirably achieved” Warwick explains. “During the 1980s there had been an extension added, with mezzanine floor above. The original cookroom – with its wonderful fuel stove was retained – the new kitchen being decorated in tones of yellow and white to reflect the canola fields of the surrounding region.
“When I came across the property in 2010, I fell in love with the architectural aspects of the building which, despite being built in Edwardian days, are really more Victorian in style. I also saw the potential to further enhance the work that the Tempest-Moggs had begun. Ever since, my vision has been to embellish the original appointments and breathe new life into the home to give it back the integrity and character it would originally have had … the secondary benefit of the exercise being that the home has become a wonderful showcase for all the furnishings, artifacts and collectables I have gathered from over 30 years of living abroad” states Warwick.
Purchased initially as a place in which to retire, Warwick soon realised that Grenfell Hall is far too important and significant not to share with others, and so, just this year, he made the decision to open the home as a B&B venue. Originally the two-storey residence had three large upstairs bedrooms – all of which are now available for bed and breakfast letting – and bathroom facilities which have been enhanced by Warwick to create two country washrooms … one with traditional roll-top bath and the second with a contemporary shower cubicle.
As part of Warwick’s restoration process, the chapel downstairs has also been turned into the most amazing, character-filled bedroom, complete with French antique prie-dieu and elaborate king-size bed. A storage room across an adjoining corridor has been turned into a private ensuite bathroom, this area of the house being available for B&B letting when the need and occasion arises. Otherwise it is used by Warwick as his private quarters, as is a mezzanine lounge room upstairs that overlooks a relatively new kitchen extension.
Because of its private use, it is within this private upstairs lounge retreat that Warwick has really let his love for the exotic unleash. With Haynes ‘Burnt Oxide’ walls, rich timber venetians, Regency brocade lounge setting, amazing canopy chair which Warwick upholstered with a rainbow collection of Chinese silks, Kashmir silk wall hanging, prayer corner, aboriginal artworks and Syrian mother-of-pearl inlaid table, it’s an eclectic space that truly reflects the character of the man himself and showcases the diversity of his amazing collection.
The exterior of this part of the house – which is a new 1980s addition incorporating modern cookroom downstairs and mezzanine retreat above – blends seamlessly with the earliest part of the building by way of a clever paint treatment which Warwick used, matching paint colours to that of the original brickwork. If first impressions say anything, the overall exterior of Grenfell Hall undisputedly states that its owner has lavished every care and effort to make it as handsome and pristine as it was when originally built over 105 years ago. Triple ochre red bricks; stippled glass window sashes trimmed in Brunswick green; heritage turquoise and cream trims; new timber verandah footings; meticulously tended gardens and other such exterior appointments all add up to make a statement of yesteryear reborn.
The front entrance of Grenfell Hall certainly confirms such things, with its cedar staircase rising to bedroom accommodation on the first floor. The walls feature wonderful hand-stencilled work typical of that seen in homes built during the mid to late Victorian period. The former owners completed stenciling the lower wall dado area while Warwick found inspiration for the upper wall section from Melbourne’s Heritage Stencil company. American decorating books were his source for the elaborate hand-painted frieze above. The floor throughout the entrance is black japanned Cypress pine, with a tung oil finish. The going underfoot is softened with an Iranian garden-design rug while the staircase treads are protected with machine-crafted Axminster carpeting.
The decorative trappings in this part of the house offer the first glimpse of the treasures and treats to be found throughout every other part of the mansion, not to mention providing just the first insight into Warwick’s wonderful talent for being able to bring a host of otherwise disparate objects together to create a luxurious harmony. A brass 1870s water ewer from Pakistan, an inlaid campaign table again from Pakistan, and a Tang Dynasty urn filled with silk orchids all perfectly complement the meticulously-restored period features of the space.
To the left, off the entrance, is a room Warwick has designed as a library – a rich and cosy space which he generously shares with B&B guests who can snuggle up here in winter to watch television or use the computer facilities that are set up on a cedar partners desk. Caramel-toned taupe walls match with silk taupe drapes that were custom-made for the room by Warwick (the talented home owner made all the drapes and blinds throughout the entire house), while ample comfort is provided by a two-seater sofa covered in a Warwick Fabrics rich brocade and a ‘Purda Houslow’ Afghani rug underfoot. An impressive Victorian cedar bookcase dominates the main wall of the room.
On the opposite side of the entrance lobby is the residence’s two formal entertaining spaces – the dining room and drawing room. The main decorating treatment Warwick executed in the dining room has been to repaint the walls a rich, exotic burnt red which he chose as a consequence of scraping a section of wall area to find this marvelous typical-Victorian colour underneath. The frieze which was in place when he purchased the home has been maintained as part of the wall decoration. At the windows, old printed canvas blinds have been painted by Warwick to create a wonderful damask effect, then finished with impressive fringing to add an opulent touch. The window treatment is completed with brocade drapes which Warwick fashioned to replicate the look of an old theatre set. The pressed metal ceiling is painted an off-white with burgundy and grey trim to match the skirting in the room.
Warwick tells that this is the room where family heirlooms really take pride of place, including a beautiful antique chiffonier, serving table and an abundance of splendid antique silverware. The table is handmade rosewood, teamed with a dozen balloon-back chairs to ensure guests always dine in the finest style.
A wonderful ‘Native Grass’ green by Wattyl – which Warwick describes as being somewhere between a deep olive and forest green – sets an enveloping mood of serenity and peace within the adjoining drawing room. A Victorian-style painted frieze tops the walls and is reflected in the painted and stenciled treatment Warwick created on canvass blinds at the windows. Made by previous owners, an elaborate pelmet – crafted of plaster that has been gilded and shellaced – tops the window alcove. Again Warwick created the special, theatrical window treatments to play up the occasion of the space, using fringing and drapes to optimum effect. As he explains, if one closely examines the room, it sports a clever combination of mini spotted, striped and large brocade fabrics which all harmoniously interact due to the common terracotta colourway.
Exotic furnishings here – from Warwick’s lifetime ‘grand tour’ – include a coffee table that was handcrafted in Pakistan; gilded beetle nut holders from Myanmar; handcarved Indian screen with mogul design; a Victorian chaise which he found in Chile; and pair of matching grandmother and grandfather armchairs. Original to the room, a Carrara marble fireplace creates a wonderful focal point. The etched glass fanlight above the door – with its fruit and autumn leaf motif to reflect the pastoral interests of the original owner – leads back into the entrance hall, the door treatment being see throughout the main formal areas of the rest of the house.
Just off the drawing room is a lush, tranquil space that Warwick has created with a lavish showing of both real and artificial potted plants … the faux being so real looking it’s almost impossible to tell the imposter from the authentic. This conservatory space was actually a huge dog kennel when Warwick purchased the property. With new cedar flooring and guttering that enables water on the floor to effortless drain into the adjoining garden; lattice screening that’s lined on the inside with mesh to allow breezes in and keep bugs out; casual furnishings and all the lush greenery, this is a superb refuge for relaxing, especially in winter as the western sun filters through.
The chapel bedroom, ensuite bathroom, original kitchen (which Warwick has decorate in tribute to the cookrooms of old, complete with a retinue of vintage kitchenalia) and modern new kitchen and adjoining eating area, plus compact laundry complete the list of rooms on the downstairs level.
As one then moves upstairs, the walls of the entrance stairwell are decorated with a stencilled dado which, Warwick tells, is exactly the same as one seen in the television series ‘Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries’. Above the dado, a rich buttermilk is the perfect foil for the display of an eclectic selection of some of Warwick’s art collection. The rare and exotic treatment continues onto the upstairs landing where a Kazakhstani carpet, Portuguese lacquered table with Cararra marble inlay, elaborate screen from Hong Kong, and copious ceramic urn tell of the life’s adventures of the home’s intriguing owner.
It is on this level that the three main bed and breakfast rooms are located, each one given its own unique style and personality by Warwick. The first is a rhapsody of pale mauve soft furnishings against a foil of mint green walls. Ever the artisan, Warwick made all the bedding from a rich double-check fabric as well as the matching Roman blinds at the windows, and the full drapes which – when drawn – effectively shut the world out and ensure that occupants are cocooned within this tranquil, romantic space. On the wall above the bed is a striking series of framed images which came from the home of American James Thompson who, in the 1950s and 60s, is credited with revitalising the Thai silk industry. To complement the décor, an occasional table within the bay window displays a bowl of lilacs in a Tang Dynasty bowl. On the end of the bed, yet another unique touch to the room is a white vicuna – a lush throw made from the fleece of Andean camels which Warwick purchased whilst on assignment in Bolivia.
The second guest bedroom is equally elegant and refined, with ‘Oatmeal’ walls by Wattyl and bedding that Warwick meticulously crafted by piecing together panels from vintage bedspreads. His handiwork also extends to matching pillow shams and pelmets at the windows, and drapes made of Indian corded silk. A fox fur throw on the bed, a blanket box with handpainted leather finish which Warwick found in Peru, and a rattan plantation chair which he brought back from Sri Lanka complement the other occasional pieces and colourful artworks within the space.
The largest of the three upstairs bedrooms is what Warwick fittingly refers to as a ‘gentlemen’s retreat’. At the top of the walls is a stunning handpainted frieze which is original to the time the house was built back in the early 1900s. To play up the richness and exotic feel of the space, Warwick painted the walls a rich shade of blue, the colour being matched to the blue in the frieze. Crowning glory of the space is a hand-carved four poster bed which Warwick brought back from Zanzibar in East Africa. The palest blue silk brocade has then been used to dress the bed while, at the windows, silk duck egg blue drapes tumble onto the floor for a truly opulent look befitting such an opulent space.
As Warwick tells “I bought the copious blanket box at the end of the bed in Zanzibar as well. The two pieces just seem to naturally marry together, as does the foot stool to one side of the bed which allows occupants an ‘easy climb’! So too, a brazier from Turkey which the Bedouins would have once used back in the 1890s to provide warmth within their desert tents. The room is also furnished with a wooden chair from the Swat Valley in north-west Pakistan, a pair of handcarved bedside lamps topped with Thai silk shades, a Chinese drum stool and matching jardinière, and floor rugs which include a prayer mat from Afghanistan and three kilims from Kashmir.”
In front of one of the windows in the room, a chair is draped with a hand-pieced quilt which Warwick bought in a Moscow market some 40 years ago. As he confesses “Back then I thought that, one day, I might have a home that was a quintessential country cottage … very folksy with all the trimmings. I don’t think you could ever say that Grenfell Hall fits such a bill, though it certainly has all the homely features and charm of any true Australian country residence, though perhaps on a slightly grander scale.”
Grand it is, but imposing and un-welcoming Grenfell Hall could never be! Its comfortable, friendly, relaxed feel emulates from the owner himself who, within minutes of first meeting, feels like a long lost friend of old! As intriguing, interesting and perhaps even a little ‘exotic’ as the house itself, Warwick Crampton well deserves the title of ‘The Host With The Most’ as many guests have already discovered. From the lavish breakfast spread he serves – complete with homemade mueslis and locally-made jams – to the fine appointments of each of the mansion’s bedrooms; from the amazing array of world-sourced treasures which decorate each room, to the warmth and charm of the host himself, Grenfell Hall offers a unique country experience like no other. It’s a vision turned to reality … one man’s dream made for the sharing with every true country-style devotee in the land!Grenfell Hall is unique within the Australian B&B landscape and is a must-stay for anyone even remotely interested in Australian heritage. It boasts a world of unique, exotic collectables and opulent appointments. It’s a showcase of the arts and crafts of peoples from across the globe, and, as owner Warwick Crampton states, is devoted to “special people who want to indulge in a very special experience and relive the charms of a bygone era”. Close to the townships of Parkes, Forbes, Cowra, Orange, historic Canowindra and within a two hours drive to Canberra, Grenfell Hall welcomes guests who want just the one night’s stay, to those who want to stay for much longer and savour the unique experience that this truly remarkable venue has to offer! For full details contact grenfell.hall@outlook .com; search the accommodation section of www.grenfell.org.au; or phone Warwick direct on (02) 6343 1787.
When The Storm Is Over
And once the storm is over,
you won’t remember how you made it through,
how you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure,
whether the storm is really over.
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm,
you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about.
(Haruki Murakami 1949 – )
There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of “that which doesn’t break you makes you stronger”. There are many other such adages that tell of the positives that come from adversity, but if the truth be known, more often than not, life would be easier and happier if the dark and dire were never traversed in the first place! But our human existence is not like this … it’s full of the challenges of hardship and the subsequent victories that come from climbing the mountain and starting again.
The story of adversity and unexpected blessings that come from endurance is certainly one well known to Queensland couple Alanna and Richard Jaffray. The Jaffrays lost almost everything – quite literally – in the floods of January 2011. The only things that remained were the frame of their contemporary villa and a few personal possessions they had either managed to escape with as the waters rose, or they found in the debris as the flooding waters subsided.
On the fateful day that the merciless waters came, they filled the Jaffray’s home from the ground, up the walls, to the ceiling … finishing level with the second capping of the skylight. Ultimately the waters rose a total of 19 metres in this usually quiet and tranquil pocket of southeast Queensland. The floods destroyed the dream home that had taken Alanna and Richard a total of seventeen years to create, a home that was filled with much-cherished possessions, collectables and memories. As the couple sat in the pouring rain – on a rise in a park much further up the street – all they could see of their beloved country home as it disappeared under the ravaging waters were the tiles on the roof. Everything else was submerged.
As Alanna tells, the process of creating an American Colonial home within a modern villa had initially been a challenge in and of itself. “We have both always loved the rustic, primitive feel of early America and had worked for many years to find the right pieces to create the style and feel of another time and place within the shell of a modern dwelling. Richard and I had painted and decorated, we’d done over the kitchen and bathroom and added timber flooring throughout. We’d papered and stenciled and collected from all over the place, incorporating both new and vintage pieces to create what everyone would tell us was a little piece of American country heaven here in Australia. And then it was gone … under metres and metres of water” Alanna tells.
Alanna and Richard Jaffray both confirm that the floods of early 2011 were one of the most devastating experiences of their lives. And yet, looking back on the horror of those January days, the couple can now identify that there have been many blessings that have come from enduring such a horrific occurrence. “Although we were fully insured, the insurance company deemed that the incident was caused by the regional dam being opened and not by natural flood, and therefore they would not cover all that we lost” Richard explains.
And so, with no home and the loss of almost everything they owned, the Jaffrays had no choice but to start again. This is truly where the love and support of those around them came to the fore … many people who offered help being total strangers, whose hearts had been so deeply touched by the plight of others in need. “From the very first heart-breaking day we returned when the waters subsided – to see our worldly possessions scattered everywhere and covered in stinking mud – we had the help and support of so many kindred souls” Alanna tells. From charity organisations to work colleagues, from family to special friends and total strangers alike, they all ultimately made a major contribution to getting the Jaffrays back on their feet, and back into their beloved home.
“Initially, we were offered accommodation to get us through, for which we were so very grateful, The only problem was that it was at Bribie Island, 200 kilometres away. And so the serious travelling began as we would come back after work and every day off to tackle the arduous task of reclaiming our home, and our lives. The entire structure had to be stripped back to the basic timber framework and concrete footings. At this stage we had no shower, no tiles, no toilet and no electricity to work with. We started by salvaging as many of our possessions as we possibly could, washing them time and again to remove the layers and layers of intrusive mud and silt. Many things we thought would be ruined forever actually came back to life after they had dried out, including our dining room setting. Today, the slight warping and scarring is testament to the fact that they survived, and how we have endured.
“The amazing thing about the process of restoration was the endless stream of people who came and helped for nothing – from the Salvation Army who donated items to get us through, to the dear friends who took up donations; from the businesses who donated practical things like gyprock for the walls and other building materials, to the companies who allowed us to purchase goods and held them in storage – free of charge – until we were ready to move back into our home” Alanna tells.
Every electrical appliance in the home had to be replaced, as well as all the practical household items such as beds, and all kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. Anything made of paper and fabric was lost, including most memorabilia, clothing, floor rugs, bedding and the like. Only the few items the couple managed to get out of the home before the waters rose had been rescued. Thankfully, this included precious photo albums, a small array of patched quilts from America, collectable teddies and several much-loved antique sewing machines as well as Richard’s computer and an array of stackable American display boxes which the couple used to fill with small items during their time of hasty, panic-filled retreat.
“We had four hours to fill our two cars before the waters came” Richard tells. “Everything was done in a state of sheer panic and we really didn’t know what we had rescued until we finally unpacked and sorted through what we had. In the mad rush, as the waters rose in the street outside, we even managed – amazingly – to save some precious Christmas decorations, though neither of us ever remember packing them! We left the home at 8pm and by 1am on January 11th the entire place was completely submerged” Richard recalls with sadness.There can be no rainbow without a cloud and a storm. (J. H. Vincent 1832 – 1920)
But through such pain and adversity, both Richard and Alanna testify that there have been many positives. They both admit however, during the time of ‘water invasion’ and subsequently the process of restoration, they never thought they would come to such a place.
“As the frame was stripped back to the bare bones and we sifted through the mud, we never thought we could ever live here again” Alanna tells. “But with the love, the care and support of so many around us – people both previously known to us and total strangers alike – we have pulled through, and over two years later we have a beautiful country home once more. The times in between have been so testing. We were pushed to the limits as both individuals and as a couple, but it has all served to make us so much stronger. It has also helped to determine a completely new viewpoint on the things around us. Everything we own is now cherished and has a very special place in the heart as it has endured, or has been given or reclaimed by special people who tirelessly washed away the mud and made new. We have learnt to no longer take things for granted. And we now use everything we own, regarding nothing as too precious, as one never knows what could happen in the future.”
Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past
can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.
(Ralph Blum 1932 – )
Both Alanna and Richard do confess that, if it had not been for the care and compassion, the endless love and the support of so many loved ones they would have walked away from their flooded, decimated home and never looked back.
But now, over two years down the track, they are pleased that they stayed focused, and stayed strong. Not only are they now able to count the blessings of the many levels of relationship around them which have sustained them and carried them through – not to mention the bonds of marriage which have been made all the more strong as a consequence of the times and tests they have endured – the Jaffrays now have a brand new country home which they have grown to love even more than the former.
The lounge room alone is now nothing like it was. Furnishing pieces that survived the flood have been cleaned, waxed and polished. Other items have been bought new or rescued from vintage stores and antique shops. The new gyprock paneling has been painted a light mustard, with a feature wall in a deep mocha to reflect the warmth and tones of the many timber furnishings arrayed here. The lounge suite was given to the couple as a gift. The Singer sewing cabinet was rescued prior to the flood. Sue Hay – doyen of country style in Queensland and great friend who spent many hours here washing china and furnishings – gave the couple a marvelous timber display cabinet as well as many other furnishings. Stitcheries, folk art pieces and framed images were also given by Sue as well as by various other friends and special supporters. Gorgeous country cushions were donated by Sally and her mother Janette from ‘Gotta Be Country’. Fabric dolls – which went through the flood and were washed and redressed – now take pride of place, as do the wonderful framed primitive calendar images which Sue Hay had specially framed for the Jaffrays.
“Hanging things on the walls again actually took a good deal of courage” Alanna explains. “I was so nervous about putting things out in the fear that the waters might come again. It took me about five months before I was brave enough.”
The open plan lounge and living area also incorporates the kitchen which has been made new with a special pressed metal splashback … a treatment the couple actually prefer to the former tiled finish. Two-pack gloss-finished white kitchen cabinetry and granite benchtops help to create the crisp, clean feel in the cookroom area and act as the perfect foil for the display of collectables and china. The china in particular is especially cherished as it was saved during the flood by the ceiling insulation. As Richard explains “the ceiling insulation fell down from above and into the china, anchoring it and preventing it from floating away as the waters ultimately subsided. It’s yet another of the rescued treasures that we thought we had lost forever and are so grateful to have preserved”.
In the main bedroom, the brand new bed ensemble – given to the Jaffrays as a special gift by an anonymous donor who belonged to a local gym – is dressed with an American patchwork quilt which formerly provided emergency packaging when the floods came and the couple made their escape. On the wall above is a stenciled motto – now very much the couple’s personal mantra – which was provided by dear friend Sue Hay. It reads “Home is where our story begins.” All the wall images in the room are new, with the exception of the George Washington verse high above the bed which Richard painstakingly repaired as it holds great sentimental value for the couple. Prairie bonnets and christening outfits are a new collecting interest and signify a fresh addition to the room, as well as embodying the idea of new beginnings for the pair. Pride of place is a much-cherished doll which the couple raced back into the home to rescue on the day the waters came.
So many of the furnishings both here and in other parts of the house were meticulously re-crafted by Sue Hay’s beloved father who endlessly toiled … putting legs back on cabinets, shelves and paneling back on bookcases, and generally rescuing, refurbishing and restoring so many other pieces of the Jaffray’s original furniture collection.
The gem cannot be polished without friction,
nor man be perfected without trials.
Asked why the couple have such a passion for the primitive American Colonial and folk look, they state they have always loved the fact that the style grew out of adversity as the early American settlers, centuries ago, utilised everything they had at hand to provide the most basic of life’s domestic furnishings and comforts. Materials were used and re-used within the home to create everything from furnishings to flooring, window coverings to quilts and an endless retinue of household wares. Thus all objects within the home had meaning and history … just as everything within the Jaffray’s country home now embodies a tale of survival, endurance and love. Like the quintessential trappings of the American Colonial look which evoke memories and speak of endurance and the passing of time, so too the elements – both individually and corporately – which make up the wonderful abode that Richard and Alanna Jaffray have so courageously reclaimed.
Today, over two years since the flood, the restoration process continues … though now at a much quieter and more relaxed pace. The latest undertaking for the Jaffrays has been the final re-claiming of the garden and the creation of an outdoor relaxation area just beyond the main indoor living room. As time has moved on and memories have healed, the Jaffrays believe their country home now looks better than it ever did, and certainly embodies the love, care and attention of so many hearts who have contributed so richly to the task of restitution.
“Our country home is a testament to not only our love but also that of so many others” states Alanna. “How could we ever leave it?” she questions. It seems that, for now, there is no such question to ask as this delightful Queensland couple daily get on with the task of living their lives within a place that has – as a consequence of much hardship, adversity, and the mastering of such things – come to mean so much more than just a place to inhabit. This is now truly a place where hearts combine … a place to really call home.
Back In The Day …
Happy is the person who knows
what to remember of the past,
what to enjoy in the present,
and what to plan for in the future.
(Arnold H. Glasow 1905 – 1998)
Nowadays, too often too many people buy an old home and strip it of its period character and integrity in the pursuit of creating a house fit for modern living. Karen White is not one of them! When she purchased ‘Voysey Cottage’ in the foothills of the Blue Mountains in the middle of 2005, she determined from the very start that she would enhance the inherent vintage integrity and style of the property as best she could – starting from the front gate and working her way from there.
Karen’s decision to safeguard and preserve the period detailing and spirit of her country home comes from not only a personal passion for the past, but has also been fuelled by an insight she has gleaned into the background and heritage of the home, as revealed in an intriguing historical report on the family history of the original owner, George Voysey.
As records reveal, back in the early 1900s, George Voysey owned a large block of land – with an original cottage on part of the holding – with dual street frontages. When he died in 1920, his two sons Charlie and Percy inherited the property and made the decision to divide it between them. Charlie kept the original house and adjoining block of land, while Percy and his young wife Ida carved off the neighbouring two blocks, on which they built a modest iron roofed, weatherboard cottage … the heart of what Karen now calls ‘Voysey Cottage’.
As the written history of the home – by Winsome Phillis (nee Voysey) – tells, the cottage consisted of “two bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and bathroom/laundry, with small front and back verandahs. The lower half of the inner walls was finished with varnished wood; linoleum covered the wooden floors … The house cost about £400, some of which was borrowed (from a local solicitor). Repayments were made monthly, as much as you could pay off the loan. You didn’t have to pay a set amount.”
This intriguing account of the early days of ‘Voysey Cottage’ documents how the home was modestly furnished and the gentle flow of early family life within its walls. From the ice chest standing on the back verandah to the ironing done atop a blanket with flat irons heated on the kitchen stove; from the piano in the living room (bought by Percy as a wedding present for Ida) to the laundry hung on lines held up with props in the backyard, the early story of ‘Voysey Cottage’ reflected the pattern of domestic life seen throughout most parts of Australia in the 1920s.
As the years passed, Percy and Ida had several children – Gwen, Elaine, Winsome and Howard – and lived happily in the modest little cottage until, in 1935, the couple shared second prize of £1000 in the lottery. The winnings enabled them to undertake a range of extensions and improvements, including adding a glassed-in back verandah, new kitchen and bathroom/laundry, as well as installing a new fuel stove, an electric cooker and later an electric refrigerator (after electricity was connected to the area in 1934).
With Percy’s brother Charlie and family living next door, with chook runs and vegetable gardens dividing the two holdings, it was an idyllic picture of extended family life … with house parties, dances, movies, Sunday night tea gatherings and a world of other such social happenings further enriching the life of the Voyseys. As Winsome reflects, after the parties of adolescence came the engagements and then the weddings, each of the four children ultimately giving birth to grandchildren for Percy and Ida and thus ensuring that ‘Voysey Cottage’ would remain at the heart of the family for another generation.
After Percy’s death, Ida went into a nursing home in 1977 and finally passed away in 1993, leaving the house to be ultimately sold to new owners. These new proprietors – like Karen after them – proved to not only be enchanted by the heritage and history of the home which had formerly been within the same family for over 70 years, but were superbly sensitive to the task of restoring the residence and extending it to create a considerably larger dwelling.
When the past no longer
illuminates the future,
the spirit walks in darkness.
(Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 – 1859)
As Karen tells “the people who purchased the home after Ida’s death obviously fell in love with the heritage and story of the property as they undertook a range of improvements in sympathy with the original part of the house. At the same time they were able to create what can best be described as a comfortable, contemporary country-inspired residence. They added an open-plan family and dining room plus additional bedroom to the back of the house, as well as creating an attic within the ceiling space. They enlarged the kitchen, created an ensuite off the main bedroom and generally renovated and restored throughout.”
And then along came Karen some eight year later. In the time since, with an enormous amount of effort, love and passion, the task of ultimately transforming ‘Voysey Cottage’ and bringing it back to life has been completed. And as already stated, she commenced the process at the front gate and worked her way from there.
“I started by pulling out most of the garden, replanting it with a distinct cottage theme. The backbone of plantings includes foxgloves and roses, lavender and camellias, with lots of annuals – such as petunias and pansies, violas and such – included for splashes of seasonal colours” she explains.
To the gardenscape Karen has then integrated a number of significant vintage features, including a section of old four-poster fencing; a wonderfully rustic handcrafted bench seat on wheels; galvanised buckets and planters sourced from markets and garage sales; and various other old outdoor curios and whimsical vintage wares. To the garden beds she has added miniorb and sandstone block edging, painted a pergola in the back yard a rich ‘Clotted Cream’ by Wattyl (with Dulux ‘Gridiron’ steely blue trim) to match the outside of the house, and even decorated a children’s cubby house in the backyard to replicate the look and colour scheme of the exterior.
Leading from the front door into the entrance hall, a similar colour palette of cream and moody blue trim is revealed … a theme which goes throughout most to the interior (with the exception of a rear bedroom which is painted a dusky pink and the nursery which features a slightly darker ‘Bluestone Rock’ treatment on the wainscot and pale blue on the walls above). The entrance also reveals just a glimpse of Karen’s eye for detail and skill at creating clever country vignettes … something that is carried through all other rooms of the home. With its array of vintage collectables and framed images of loved ones near and dear, it’s a statement of respect for the past and passion for the sanctuary and security of this special place she has created.
The entrance hall leads into a sitting room to the left and then large open-plan living and dining room and kitchen beyond. A vintage meatsafe and utility cabinet holding antique children’s clothing; a bow-fronted china cabinet (found at a garage sale for just $100) that holds Karen’s grandmother’s and beloved mother’s old dinner set and crystal collections; an eighty-year-old cast iron pot belly stove which Karen’s grandmother once used daily to cook meals; an heirloom Singer sewing machine and various other quirky vintage collectables all combine to make the entrance sitting room a cosy and sentimental place.
A doorway from the sitting room leads into the main open-plan living area at the back of the house … this being the main section added on to the original cottage by the former owners. Key furnishings here include a robust two- and matching three-seater lounge dressed in a rich beige suede. A third two-seater from the same ensemble sits in the cosy sitting room off the entrance, this serving to further visually link the two areas. A colonial-style eight-seater dining setting marries with a timber television cabinet which Karen has cleverly turned into a sideboard (with gingham curtaining on the inside of the glass doors to soften the look).
A robust coffee-table chest and matching television console complete the retinue of key furnishings here. To this Karen has artfully added a collection of special vintage pieces and clever contemporary-created country collectables to create a picture of idyllic country style that is a little bit ‘now’ and a dash ‘then’!
As she explains “I loved the house from the onset … its heritage and integrity of character. But once I saw the kitchen I was certainly sold! This is where my love affair really began. I adore cooking and the kitchen is not only wonderfully appointed – with an ideal work triangle – it also has abundant places in which I can display all my favourite vintage wares … old bits and pieces I have been collecting for at least 15 years.” Principal amongst such things is Karen’s mum’s old Sunbeam Mixmaster, and another which her father purchased with his very first pay packet for his beloved mother. There’s also old scales, vintage bottles and tins, antique kitchenalia and so much more.
When we recall the past,
we usually find that it is the simplest things –
not the great occasions –
that in retrospect give off the greatest glow of happiness.
(Bob Hope 1903 – 2003)
The display of vintage and antique wares to extol the period character and integrity of the home, as seen in the kitchen, make an important contribution to all other parts of the home. – They also reflect Karen’s love affair with the past simplicities of domestic life, as well as make an important statement about her own personal heritage at the same time.
In the main bedroom a 1930s dressing table (bought for the bargain price of $75) sits beside a vintage chair that serves as a bedside table. Vintage crystal and nostalgic clothing adds another important note of the past. In the nursery a vintage bassinette and old clothing further adds to the period feel.
A claw foot bath and vintage wooden basin, a meatsafe used to store towels, and a smaller metal version decorated with old lotion bottles and medical supplies create the period magic and mood in the handsome bathroom while an original old wringer washing mashing stands on the back landing to immediately bring to mind a time gone by when doing the laundry was one of the many arduous household chores faced weekly by the lady of the house.
Add to the collections already mentioned other significant pieces such as vintage skates and old childhood board games, vintage toys and books, household tools and gardening wares, enamelware and old sewing paraphernalia, juvenalia, vintage clothing and a vast array of other elements connected with the things of everyday life of yesteryear and one can easily deduce that ‘Voysey Cottage’ and Karen White were indeed made for each other. In the here and now things are just as they might once have been, back in the day!
A Rebellion Towards Innocence
Every act of rebellion
expresses a nostalgia for innocence
and an appeal to the essence of being.
(Albert Camus 1913 – 1960)
There is a school of thought which suggests that where we live and how we adorn the place we call home can be directly related to where we come from and what we have lived through. It can be an express reflection of the things we have endured in childhood as we create a safe haven in adulthood that represents a coming of age; which captures a time of past innocence and simplicity which may not have been our own. A home can thus represent the attainment of such things at a different time in our lives. Such is certainly the case of Melissa and Kendal’s gorgeous country cottage in the NSW highlands which is as colourful and cosy as it is welcoming and secure … a safe place that is as ever changing and captivating as their vast cache of collectable treasures which are ever expanding and moved around to create the most intriguing vignettes within an overall interior space that continually enchants all who cross the threshold – not to mention the people who live here and happily call it home.
As Melissa explains “our home is a direct reflection of the happy times remembered of past days. It is a very personal place that feels ever safe and echoes a combination of distant memories, as well as embodying a range of fantasies, mysteries and dreams which we hold dear at heart. It mirrors a place of childhood in the here and now and, as such, is a very unique and wonderful dwelling in which to live from day to day.”
The principal way in which such ends have been achieved is through the collection and artful arrangement of a vast array of ‘elements of childhood’ – that is, significant collectable pieces of juvenilia which have been cleverly grouped and arranged against a backdrop of vivid colour play. And the perfect foil for it all is the architectural integrity of the couple’s home itself which, as they tell, started out life as a railway overseer’s cottage built in the late 1800s.
“We believe that the original part of the house consisted of four rooms – with internal kitchen complete with open fire – which would have accommodated the first family who lived here” Kendal states. Over the years the house has been modified and extended, with the addition of a lounge and dining room, plus bathroom and separate laundry towards the rear of the property. What was possibly a rear verandah or sundeck – leading off the kitchen and wedged in between the dining room addition and the original part of the cottage – was, some time ago, closed in to create a third bedroom-cum-office space and studio. The most recent alteration has been the inclusion of an exterior deck which is the perfect place for entertaining and relaxing throughout the warmer months, not to mention being the ideal aspect from which to survey gardens to which the owners have devoted a great deal of love and attention since purchasing the property.
As Melissa states, the process of reclaiming the gardens has been a true labour of love. “We’ve removed insidious privet which threatened to take over the place and stripped back trailing wisteria. We’ve cut back and regenerated many of the good species that we found here and added a host of new plantings, such that today the garden has really come back to life. In the area immediately surrounding the house, standard and climbing roses, cherry blossoms and a robust crab apple tree, Golden Robina and lush underplantings of agapanthus, lavender bushes in abundance, and a whole array of vintage plants too numerous of identity all combine to create a traditional rambling cottage garden that makes a direct link back to the style and heritage of country gardens of old.” Crushed rock pathways meander amongst it all, wandering past ponds and sculptural elements to create delightful ‘scenarios’ that reflect the clever decorating skill and passion of the owners … attributes which are certainly to be discovered indoors.
The exterior of the home is a combination of a pale terracotta on the timber panelling, with gunmetal grey trim on the front decking and original wrought iron balustrading. When first purchased, the owners set about re-roofing the house with a heritage-inspired Indian Red Colorbond and reclad both sides of the house, as well as installing an Indian Red powder-coated fence across the front of the property to enclose the garden and create a secure compound for their trio of ‘home protecting’ canines. As Melissa tells, once they started the process of restoration and repair, it seemed to go on endlessly … something that is so typical of old homes. “Once we started on the venture of giving back the home its architectural integrity, one part of the process seemed to continually reveal the need for something else that needed to be done. The whole roof had to be repatched, gaping holes in interior walls and floors had to be filled and there were so many other unexpected and messy jobs that needed to be done, resulting in what can certainly be said to be a host of unexpected costs! It’s like painting the harbour bridge … once we get to the end it will be time to start over again. There will always be lots to do but the effort is well worth it” she adds.
The front verandah of the home faces south, making it the ideal place for summer relaxing as it is always cool and shady in the afternoons. Wind breaks either side of the verandah feature vintage dimpled glass panels, the space being furnished with a collection of quirky elements including vintage-style cane chairs, potted ficus plants, cherry wood easel and mirror, leather saddle on an old carpenter’s saw horse, lovely old child’s rocking horse and a late 1930s child’s wheelchair. The combination of the elements here certainly work to betray the collectable curiosities to be found just inside the adjoining front door.
Original to the home – installed in the 1890s – the stained glass fanlight above the front door matches the panel work in the door itself. Although some of the coloured glass panels have been repaired and replaced over time, many of the jewel-coloured glass pieces are original to the door and create an enchanting entrée to what is a magical, not to mention colourful, interior. Indeed the colour play starts right at the entrance hall and extends into each and every other room of the house, the entry being painted a combination of deep plum ‘Enchantress’ which has been used on the door frame and neighbouring door surrounds, combined with gloss white (used to give the strong plum colour crisp definition) and a striking ‘Orange Crush’ by Taubmans on the pine lining-board walls. The ceiling has been painted white and the wide beam pine floorboards have been polished to bring up their natural colour and patina.
Quirky elements here which further add to the theatre of the space include a trio of wise monkeys (from America’s Katherine’s Collection) which hang above a solid handmade red gum burl bench which matches the kitchen table in the adjoining cookroom. On the wall, an outstanding framed pen and ink artwork by Melissa tells of her time spent on an Indian reservation in New Mexico back in the early 1980s – part of a four-month expedition she took which birthed within her a love of early Native American culture. The artwork is just one of a range of pen and ink originals Melissa has done throughout the house and betrays her earlier background as an animator and children’s book illustrator. As she tells, in recent times her art has become more of a recreational passion and she still keeps her ‘hand in’ by taking part in a range of annual regional exhibitions.
To one side of the entrance hall is a spacious guest bedroom which probably was the original single bedroom of the early four room cottage. It’s a showcase for Kendal’s creativity, with a range of airbrushed and acrylic-on-canvas artworks exhibited here. As in all other parts of the house, the colour play is strong and vibrant, with pale pink on the walls, complemented by a deeper blush of the same colour above the picture rail and deep sage green trim on all other architectural elements within the space. A vintage brass bedstead crowns a copious waterbed which is dressed with a deep grey embroidered doona cover and collection of satin and polished cotton scatter cushions. From the ceiling above hangs a striking pastel organza canopy with deep purple voile curtains at the windows. An array of hats, scarves on a ladder and pyramid-shaped chest of drawers add further interesting touches to the space.
On the opposite side of the entrance hall is the master bedroom which was probably the original parlour and only central living space of the early four-room 1890s cottage. The key feature of the space is an enormous king-sized sleigh bed which is dressed with a panelled Morgan and Finch ‘Indochine’ quilt cover inspired by the Orient, and matching velvet-trimmed shams. The walls of the room continue the interior colour treatment, combining a pale violet with deeper tone above the picture rail. Vibrant pink and purple mosquito nets hang from the ceiling above and further add to the colour vibrancy within the room.
The master bedroom is also the venue for the display of an ever-growing collection of stuffed animals, Melissa telling that her collecting passion for such pieces of juvenilia stems from her childhood. “My father was a cinema photographer and consequently travelled the world with his profession. And so, as I grew up, I was given a number of interesting and unique toys which came from many exotic and diverse places, including antique stores in far-off reaches. I think my passion for them today comes from those days of childhood and connect me to the love and interest my father birthed in me years ago” Melissa explains. Today, Melissa and Kendal’s collection encompasses a range of unique and highly-collectable pieces, including famous Steiff bears, Deans, Charlie Bears and French-crafted Deglingos soft toys.
The entrance hallway leads into the ‘heart of the home’ as it is eternally known … the kitchen. The cookroom is – as would be expected – a colourful and welcoming space, made all the more so by the vast array of collected treasures Melissa and Kendal have amassed here, combined with the subtle warmth of timber cabinetry and rich handmade burl table. The walls are a wheat colour which is the perfect background for the display of a huge array of eclectic framed artworks (including several tributes to the vivid paintings of 20th century Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and shadow box creations made by Melissa), plus a wide variety of other quirky collectables, including vintage canisters, a timber bookcase filled with vintage children’s books, a vast array of old toys and a wonderful selection of kitchenalia from eras past.
Outstanding curiosities within the kitchen also include a pair of handpainted old mannequins (one of Melissa and Kendal’s particular passions is old shop fittings and display pieces) which are dressed in vintage costumes and accessories (including 1960s sunglasses and dulcimer stringed musical instrument which came from North Hampton USA); and two significant Katherine’s Collection characters – a whimsical Christmas turkey complete with feathers, and ‘Gloria’ who wears a bright sun frock and sits on a chair to one corner of the room. When special guests come to dine, Melissa uses what was once her late grandmother’s pride and joy – a vintage mix-and-match harlequin set of HLC fiestaware from the USA.
The main relaxation centre of the home is the warm and cosy lounge room. The atmosphere is made all the more restful and enveloping by way of rich green walls – ‘Foliage 3’ by Nippon Paint – and hardwood floorboards which have been stained a rich deep tone. Melissa’s father handcrafted a robust Oregon coffee table for the space, other key furnishings including a marvellous 1950s buffet cabinet which houses compact discs, books and pieces of Americana; a vintage mirror which the owners decorated with buttons; and a vintage timber chair on which sits another Katherine’s Collection character ‘Queen For A Day’. In front of the window – which looks out across the back deck to nearly an acre of olive and fruit trees which the owners dutifully tend and cultivate – an antique washstand provides a pedestal for an enchanting one-off Australian-made artisan doll which the owners have named ‘Mother’. Also displayed here is a large carved mushroom and, underneath, an 1800s leather-bound Bible.
The deep purple trim in the lounge room – on the door and window frames – is carried forward from the adjoining dining room. Here it has been used on the walls, the striking ‘Jewel’ by Dulux being Kendal’s first key contribution to the home’s overall colour scheme. “When we first purchased the home, Melissa asked me to come up with my favourite colour and to use it for the dining room walls. Although it’s rich and dramatic, I picked the vibrant, deep ‘Jewel’ and used it here. The spectacular end result then gave us the courage to use a palette of rich colours for the rest of the interior” Kendal explains.
Within the dining room a white mahogany table – with colourful corduroy-upholstered chairs – is surrounded by more of the couple’s equally colourful and certainly ‘eccentric’ collectables. These include life-size Dexter the pig (complete with saddle), pair of Bonds baby shop display dummies from the 1950s, mermaid ‘Miranda’ and the crowning glory … Katherine’s Collection character ‘May’ who sits in a vintage wheelchair (which Melissa rescued from a roadside Council clean-up). On the wall of the room hangs a Mexican hand-beaded cross and, above, a painting of Australian jacarandas which was done by Melissa’s grandfather (it’s just one of several artworks of this talented relation displayed throughout the house).
As would be expected, even the laundry, office and lovely vintage-style bathroom are venues for the owners’ passion for collectable displays. In the laundry an array of photographer’s paraphernalia – including a German Leica camera and vintage box brownie – betray Kendal’s interest in all things to do with photography. The studio – which doubles as an ancillary guest room – showcases yet more of Melissa and Kendal’s juvenilia collection (including highly-coveted automated ‘Healthy Harold’ giraffe which was once used to promote healthy eating in schools across the country, Mrs Beasley doll which was made famous in the 1960’s television series ‘Family Affair’, Dr Doolittle doll from the renowned Hugh Lofting series of children’s books from the 1920s, and Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men characters). Here is also to be found a marvellous pair of perfect-condition 1950’s shop mannequins – two wonderful ski kids – which the owners purchased through a local antique store.
The colour, the caricatures, the wonderful collectables and the unique way in which each piece has been artfully and thoughtfully displayed within the home of Melissa and Kendal all combine to create what can only be described as a magical world within the country home of these two talented and passionate owners. Indeed if it is true that the place in which one lives can serve to reflect where one has come from … and to be a healing and cathartic place, then the home of Melissa and Kendal is, beyond doubt, a place where dreams truly do come true as past innocence and simplicity is embodied in the here and now! And if this means, as French philosopher Albert Camus has suggested, that it means a rebellion against the ordinary and everyday … then, as Melissa and Kendal agree, let the rebellion begin!
‘Manning Up’ To Country Style
I like to see a man
proud of the place in which he lives.
I like to see a man live
so that his place will be proud of him.
(Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865)
It is the reality of our very existence. Nothing stays the same. Things are always changing. Circumstances and times continue to move forward, and we each daily move with them. When we have the opportunity to stand and look back, we can often marvel at how far we have travelled and how extreme a transformation it is that we have endured. Indeed it’s the story of life. And it’s certainly the tale behind the handsome, contemporary country home that is owned by Rex Ellison within the Blue Mountains valley of NSW.
To explain, the blonde and red brick veneer Hooker home was built in the 1960s. Former owners had given it a make-over in the 1970s in keeping with the fashion of the day … by adding a family room at the back of the house – decorated in ‘de rigueur’ Mission Brown, of course – and also including a flat-roofed carport to one side of the dwelling. Their improvements also incorporated the creation of a steel-framed and screened enclosure at the front of the house to achieve a style of indoor/outdoor living space.
When the Ellisons moved in towards the end of the 1980s, further extensions and renovations were undertaken to achieve a comfortable residence in which to raise two children to adulthood. Significant works included the glassing-in of the front screened area to create a bright and sunny atrium. A triple carport replaced the former single version and a large verandah was added to the back of the house to take full advantage of the views down into the valley and towards Sydney, not to mention the creation of an ideal summer living space.
The extensive refurbishments at the time also included the installation of a new Tasmanian oak kitchen and the renovation of both the main and ensuite bathrooms as well as a downstairs laundry (all in keeping with the style and theme of the new kitchen, especially by way of the inclusion of granite-style laminated benchtops in all spaces). A large area was also dug out underneath the back of the house to create a place for all-weather entertaining. Other interior improvements at the time also included the removal of carpet and the polishing of existing floorboards in the main walkways; painting of walls throughout; the installation of slimline blinds and the establishment of the property’s main gardens.
But it was not until more recent times that the home was to undergo its most extreme and extensive revamp … bring it into line with more contemporary trends, at the same time being enhanced with a very distinctive, masculine interpretation of country style. With both children having completed their senior education and individually pursuing their own paths of tertiary studies, part-time employment and even overseas travel, Rex seized the opportunity to bestow the home with his own distinctive decorating style and, in turn, to create a wonderfully bespoke country home that is ever comfortable and highly individual.
As he explains “I have always loved a monochromatic palette of black on white and this was to be my starting point. A significant part of the renovation also centred around achieving much more light and a feeling of openness within the interior. I wanted to somehow bring the garden and a sense of the outside indoors, and so I set about not only adding lots of glass and larger windows but also widened a number of interior doorways to achieve a better flow and feel of open-plan living.”
With this in mind, Rex removed a small interior boxed air conditioning unit which was set high in the wall in the family dining area and installed a panel of Flemish glass. This was to become a significant ‘jumping off point’ for the renovation as it inspired him to utilise the same glass – which provides optimum light combined with ideal privacy – throughout various other parts of the house, including the bathroom and ensuite, as well as an entrance area close to the back door. The glass throughout the rest of the house was then also made new, with the installation of double hung windows in the bedrooms; French doors leading from the formal lounge into the atrium; and expansive bifold doors across the length of the family room. In the warmer months these can be opened to connect the new rear deck and the interior space, instantly doubling the entertaining area and truly connecting the indoors to the outside.
Also of significant mention here is the refurbishment done to the rear decking, Rex selecting a handsome Merbau flooring which he had specially stained and oiled, with white powder-coated balustrading finished with stainless steel wiring which provides optimum security and yet does not impede the impressive views of the garden and surrounding vistas.
Internally, the walls were stripped of former finishes and adornment, and several doorways were widened before gyprocking was refurbished and the process of painting was commenced. To maintain a seamless flow throughout and to further play up his love of monochromatic interior schemes, Rex chose ‘Winter Haven’ white for all wall surfaces, with the exception of a rich ‘Manor Red’ feature wall in the family room and wainscot in the adjoining dining area. To further accentuate the treatment and to emphasise the union between inside and outdoors, external columns at the very front of the house were painted the same moody red as were a number of feature areas within the entertaining area at the rear of the house.
Existing carpeting was removed, as were cork tiles in the kitchen and dining areas, so that the Cypress pine floorboards underneath could be polished, the end result being yet another example of the seamless flow created from room to room throughout the interior, right from the time one crosses the ‘official threshold’ which is just inside the slate-floored atrium. The slate on the atrium floor, as well as that on the rear downstairs entertainment and barbeque area, was revived with a black-stained varnish to bring it back to life and give it a subtle glow.
If truth be known, the renovations began beyond the front door, with the creation of a new entrance verandah complete with Merbau decking to match that used on the rear deck. The front deck – with its corrugated powder-coated white water tank (the contents of which are used to maintain the front garden) – leads from the interior into the front yard which, in keeping with Rex’s meticulous eye for detail, has been overhauled with new plantings, cement edging, lawn restoration and the inclusion of a delightful water feature created within a deep rustic urn.
From the front verandah, one steps into the bright and airy atrium, made all the more comfortable and inviting by way of a copious cane lounge upholstered in a fresh white linen, and a handsome occasional chair covered in a burnt orange cotton. Rex maintains that this is the perfect place to read the papers on a winter’s morning, and, due to French doors leading into the adjoining formal lounge, can double as additional entertaining space when a crowd gathers.
As already noted, the main front door is also accessed via the entrance atrium, the powder-coated door again presenting an example of Rex’s passion for Flemish glass. Across the threshold, the hallway leads to bedrooms and into the kitchen and family room, with the formal lounge accessed to the right. A sense of occasion has been achieved in the hallway by way of a striking calligraphy-adorned pewter foil wallpaper adorned with the names of significant Australian country towns. In keeping with the bespoke nature of Rex’s entire restoration campaign, he had the old linen cupboard in the entrance hall removed, and, into the recess, a DVD rack – which doubles as a bookshelf – was installed at head height. A custom-made wooden blanket box with a distressed off-white paint finish was then integrated into the recess. On the wall above, the name of an important location to the family was painted in a calligraphy style to match that of the wallpaper.
Across from the new hallway seat is the home’s formal lounge room. Rex had the doorway opening between the two widened to match the width of the hallway alcove opposite. To create visual interest and yet maintain a white palette for the walls, Rex had the wainscot painted a double tint of the ‘Winter Haven’ used on the top of the walls here and throughout most other parts of the house. The handsome room is furnished with a combination of three double-seater sofas which are covered in an off-white linen; a robust coffee table crafted in recycled Oregon to match the dining table in the adjoining room; a custom-crafted sideboard and corner cabinet stained a deep rich Jarrah; and a writing desk which Rex had finished in his favourite black distressed paint treatment. Illumination in the space is provided by way of a striking contemporary five-arm brass chandelier which matches a three-arm version above the dining room table, the opaque glass in each light fitting in turn matching that used in the oyster fittings throughout the rest of the house.
Between the lounge and adjoining dining area just off the kitchen, Rex had a gas-powered log fire installed into the wall, the flicker of flames in winter creating a magical effect as they are reflected in the abundant glass doors and windows in the surrounding rooms. In the dining room, traditional country spindle-back Captain’s chairs have been given a new – and decidedly masculine – lease on life by way of a distressed black paint finish, the effect being repeated on the underside of the robust Oregon table. To create additional warmth in an otherwise very open room, Rex decided to paint the wainscot here the same rich ‘Manor Red’ as a feature wall at the back of the adjoining family room.
The family room is indeed the living ‘heart’ of the home, for here all relaxing takes place, as well as important ‘work’ as the room neighbours a bespoke office which is furnished with custom wall cabinetry and work desk that would rival the best business centres in the land. The family room – with its predominant ‘Winter Haven’ scheme and ‘Manor Red’ feature back wall (which leads into the open-plan office) – is furnished with a pair of robust deep blue leather lounges (a three seater and matching two-and-a-half seater), as well as tailor-made cabinetry in the form of DVD and CD racks either side of another bespoke piece – an entertainment unit in the same white-washed distressed timber finish. A handsome traditional American patchwork quilt in a combination of blues, reds and black not only adds an important softening touch and sense of warmth but also serves to cleverly ‘tie together’ the accent colour scheme here and in the adjoining dining area and kitchen.
The sense of connection and easy flow from one space to another has been paramount in Rex’s design plan. The kitchen – which is to one side of the dining area – is the perfect illustration of such a ‘mission de force’. The renovation of the cookroom involved many major works, including the removal of all existing Tasmanian oak cupboard doors and drawers which were sent off to be professionally painted a rich black and then distressed to bring out the colour and grain of the wood beneath. Recycled Oregon was used for benchtops and work surfaces, with a new porcelain sink and companion draining sink installed with new brass tapware. The cupboard fronts and drawers were then replaced and brass fittings selected to match the tapware.
Overhead, an existing skylight was given a clever country update by way of a metal grid installed into the recess, this creating the perfect place to hang regularly-used pots, pans and other such kitchenalia, all of which are suspended from stainless steel butchers’ hooks.
Instead of replacing the existing refrigerator and freezer, Rex came up with the very clever idea of adding traditional brass pull handles – similar to those one would normally see on timber cabinetry – and then covered both appliances with a collage of black-framed portraits depicting the family’s world adventures. The special magnetic frames can be moved around at whim, and are a daily reminder of wonderful times spent together in such places as Greece and England.
In true ‘coordinate and follow through’ style, Rex then replicated the same decorating treatment in the downstairs laundry, with a repeat of the black distressed timber cabinetry and Oregon benchtops (which were raised slightly higher than they previously were so as to be the optimum height for easy loading of the washing machine and activities such as folding and sorting). The framework of existing cabinetry was retained under the benchtops, with cane baskets installed in place of solid drawers. Brass knobs on the cupboards above match those used in the kitchen upstairs.
By way of his very clever design mission, this treatment was then again repeated in the home’s main bathroom and ensuite where a very clever design trick was undertaken to create a novel shelving space down the side of the mirror above the vanity. As Rex explains “instead of placing it flush to the wall I had the builder tilt the mirror off the wall on one side. The whole thing is secured by way of a bespoke V-shaped cupboard behind … which really looks like a large wedge the length of the mirror, with compartments which are ideal to store daily used toiletries and colognes. The other great thing about the resultant angle of the mirror is the fact that it provides the perfect rear reflection in the mirrored cupboards in the bedroom opposite, meaning one never has to worry about what one’s back view looks like … you can check it out yourself!” he jokes.
Speaking of the adjoining bedroom, here the custom-crafted story continues. Plantation shutters which were tailor-made shade the newly-installed bay window and create essential privacy, at the same time being in keeping with the light, white-inspired décor of here and the rest of the house. The custom-made bed and neighbouring cabinetry is what Rex calls a ‘Tudor pastiche’, the white-washed and distressed timber furniture being adorned with Tudor-style carving that speaks of another time and place … and yet is contemporary and very definitely ‘masculine’ at the same time. The bed is dressed with a linen quilt cover and collection of linen, satin and corduroy cushions, their very arrangement bearing witness to the owner’s particular penchant for order and coordination.
When taking in the overall layout of the entire home, and understanding the renovation design brief which Rex has meticulously executed throughout – from the front door to the back and even into the garden – it is an indisputable fact that it is a ‘tailor made’ country home of the highest quality. First built in the 1960s, it has been brought into the modern age at the hands of a skilful decorator who has taken every opportunity to bestow it not only with a sense of uniformity and order, but also a very distinct outpouring of his own personality. With the greatest attention to detail and a fastidious eye for achieving optimum flow and coordination from room to room, Rex’s home has become a country residence that is a proud reflection of the love and care lavished upon it by ‘the man of the house’!
This site Copyright © 2013 Rick Rutherford • Site by A Place Online