The Outcome Of Effort
In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent
of the blessings we receive in life, work and love.
The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.
(Peter McWilliams 1950 – 2000)
By her own admission, Kerri Cook had an inside advantage! Being in the business of managing properties, she has the privilege of seeing a host of houses every day. And yet, despite the huge array of homes she views, when a particular cottage came onto the market in southern South Australia about two years ago, she admits that it stole her heart. And so she and husband Malcolm made the decision to buy the residence, in so doing setting out on a mission of restoration and repair which ultimately took the couple well over 10 solid months.
Kerri tells that when family and friends first saw the house in its original state, they all thought she and Malcolm had lost their senses! But the couple could see beyond the fibro façade and the less-than pristine interior. They instinctively knew that, with a lot of hard work and much effort, they could turn it into a wonderfully cosy, charming place to live. And so the hard work began!
Despite the fact that the house is just over 45 years old, it presents as being a Federation cottage, especially now that the Cooks have worked their magic. On the outside they have clad the entire building, finishing it in a heritage cream. They’ve replaced windows and doors, and added delightful awnings above the windows to match the galvanised grey tin roof which had been completed by the previous owners. Over an earlier slate verandah they have added timber decking and finished it with handsome balustrading and fretwork above.
To complement the verandah and to achieve a quintessential country feel, Kerri and Malcolm then added a delightful picket fence – painted the same colour as the exterior of the house – and an impressive lychgate. Both the top of the portico leading onto the verandah and the peak on the lychgate were then crowned with finials and trimmed with fretwork – done by a specialist in Adelaide – depicting a rising sun. As Kerri explains “the motif not only helps to bestow a Federation feel on the house, it is also a reflection of the fact that the home is our little ray of sunshine.” To complement the fresh cream of the exterior woodwork, all trimmings feature traditional Colorbond ‘Mist Green’.
Other exterior modifications which have helped to transform the home so dramatically include western red cedar French doors and custom-made farmyard screen; dark grey pavers used to create both a driveway and path to the rear of the house; and the creation of a circular lavender garden – with weeping mulberry in the middle – in the front yard. At the rear, the major modification has been the creation of an outdoor pergola with gabled entertaining area off a rear deck which leads from the dining room. This is the focal point for most of the couple’s summer living, the ‘everyday is a holiday’ feel enhanced by the fact that the beach is just a short walk away.
Inside, the couple’s restoration efforts have been just as extensive – from moving walls and re-cladding all the gyprock to polishing the floors throughout. Both the kitchen and bathroom have been completely overhauled, the experience of renovating the cookroom alone having been a traumatic undertaking. “We removed the original, dated kitchen and for four months had nowhere to cook or eat. The bathroom renovation was equally memorable as we had to move walls to make the original space larger. As the work progressed winter set in. There were no skirting boards so you could literally see outside from indoors. We huddled around a kerosene heater at night, often wondering if it would all ever be finished” Kerri recalls.
But ultimately, rooms began to take shape. Two bedrooms were completely renovated and painted out – one for Kerri and Malcolm and the other for their two grandchildren. A third bedroom was surrendered to create the dining room off the kitchen, the overall space being the main living area in collaboration with the lounge room and a skillion sunroom which, in its previous form, was an entrance hallway. As Malcolm tells “the renovations allowed us to alter the access by installing a new entrance portico and doors which access the lounge room at the front of the house. From here a passageway leads to the guest bedroom and bathroom and then, further on, to the kitchen and dining area.
“The leadlight windows from the original entrance were recycled for the new bathroom and laundry. The re-outfitting of the skillion also entailed the installation of a suspended timber floor over the original concrete slab underneath” he adds. Finishing touches include a wallpaper border depicting hearts and baskets hanging from a Shaker peg rail, and a robust lounge which sports a chaise-style back and is upholstered in a sage green cut velvet.
Now completely overhauled, the new kitchen is very much the heart of the Cook’s home. Accessed at the end of the entrance passage (with overhead fanlight which was made by the same Adelaide craftsman who fashioned the fanlights on the portico and lychgate outside), the kitchen is a fresh and welcoming space, with crisp off-white cabinetry (dressed with a proprietary two-pack finish) and black granite benchtops. Custom-made leadlight doors used for the overhead cupboards were designed by Kerri and Malcolm; special provision was made for the integration of the refrigerator and microwave as well as the dishwasher. A wall oven is complemented by hotplates integrated into the benchtops.
Vanilla ceramic tiles have been used for the smart, crisp splashback while an island in the middle of the room provides a boon not only for food preparation but also for essential cookroom storage. Views to the back decking from the window above the sink and easy access to the outdoor entertaining area via the adjoining dining area – which is furnished with a robust hardwood dining setting – further help to emphasise the bright, airy feel of the space.
To further help create the sense of freshness and light throughout the entire interior, the Cooks have painted all walls and ceilings with Solver’s ‘Cream Stone’, using furnishings, accessories and imported American wallpaper borders to achieve the essential warmth and character which is so much a part of the invitation and charm of the restored cottage. As Kerri maintains “the house is just too small to indulge in deep wall colours and dramatic window effects. By using a cream paint throughout all the rooms, and even applying it to the ceilings, we’ve been able to achieve an illusion of space and light.”
The other part of the house which has been so dramatically overhauled is the bathroom. Once walls had been moved to create more space, a tessellated floor in cream and heritage green was laid. Vanilla brick tiles used for the walls are topped with a rose-embossed frieze and capping tile, a key focal point of the room being the lovely old leadlight window which came from the former entrance. A modern-made clawfoot slipper bath is ever-inviting for luxuriating soak-ups.
The scheme has been repeated in the nearby laundry where inbuilt laminated cabinetry serves to help make the hardworking room supremely efficient and practical. An imported wallpaper frieze sets the country mood and inspires a collection of nostalgic-style collectables.
Slumber time finds the Cooks in their delightful master bedroom, Kerri stating that it is still a work in progress. The space is elegant in its simplicity, with gold damask drapes at the windows and cream lace curtains – wonderful for day-time privacy – behind. The crowning feature of the room is a mahogany bedstead with inset leadlight panel in the headboard and inbuilt pew at the foot. Kerri has dressed the bed in a crisp broderie anglaise bedset and a favourite bear decked out in lace.
The guest room is a little more elaborately adorned, Kerri telling that here she has let childhood fancies take flight. “The room is devoted to what I dreamt of as being the ideal bedroom back when I was a little girl. And considering it is where our three-year-old granddaughter Aisha sleeps when she comes to stay, I officially have an excuse for all its pretty dolls and teddies. It’s the perfect young lady’s boudoir … though I’m not sure what I’m going to do when our grandson Zane, who is just one, is old enough to stay over and demands all the dolls and pretty things to be gone” Kerri jokes.
Meanwhile, until that day comes, the hardwood bed in the room is topped with a broderie anglaise doona cover and shams, and dusky rose quilted coverlet. A Federation dressing table and matching linen press – now converted to a wardrobe – which originally belonged to Kerri’s grandmother also furnish the room.
“Standing back and surveying the fruits of nearly a year’s hard labour, I have to admit that the effort has been well worth it. I think we have done everything we can possibly do to transform the old cottage and, in the process, we’ve put our heart and soul into the place” states Kerri. “It’s amazing to think that in just over a year it has really come to feel such a part of us. With its quaint character indoors and its al fresco dining and entertaining outdoors, it’s not just a house, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a home with a heart and a fitting reflection of who we are … not to mention being the outcome of a whole lot of effort!” she adds.
The Sentimental Way
The world makes up for all its follies
and injustices by being damnably sentimental.
(Thomas Huxley 1825 – 1895)
From the country to the town. From the family homestead on 11,000 acres to a Californian bungalow on a domestic block. Such has been the passage, in recent times, of Victorian couple Billy and Kelly Mott. Together with young sons Jack (12) and Thomas (8), the Motts were faced with a life-changing decision just over a year ago … to leave their property in Victoria’s northern Mallee region and pursue a new life – and work – closer to the urban sprawl. As Kelly tells, it was not a decision which came easily…
“The drought was really the reason we had to make the move. It was heartbreaking running sheep and cattle with no water for the stock. And the broad acre wheat and barley side of the farm operation was just as impossible. Billy is the fifth generation of his family to work the property, so it was also difficult knowing that we were walking away from the family legacy. However, there is comfort in the fact that Billy’s brother has now taken over the reins. The other major consideration we had was the opportunities the boys were missing out on being so far away from town. Having done an apprenticeship in carpentry in Mildura some 15 years earlier before returning to work on the farm, Billy was confident he would be able to find work closer to Melbourne, and so it seemed that the move was the only real option we had” Kelly explains.
Having resolved to make such a major ‘sea change’, the most important thing the Motts agreed on from the start was finding an old house with the character and quintessential nostalgic charm with which they were familiar. And as Kelly tells, she had so many vintage collectables she had amassed over more than 10 years, she really had to have a house that would suit all her beloved treasures – especially her original enamelware, wonderful array of antique and vintage prams, old scales, gorgeous old teddies and artist bears, meatsafes and a wide array of other old pieces … all of which signify ‘home’ to both she and Billy.
And so the search began. In an act of divine confirmation that the couple had made the right decision to do the move, a house was soon found. In amazing original condition, the Californian bungalow the couple discovered suited their style and passion for nostalgia to a tee. “The whole house was in very good original condition. All the original leadlight doors and windows were still in place, as was the pedestal basin in the bathroom and cast iron bath. The plaster ceilings, cornices and light fittings remain just as they were when first installed nearly 60 years ago. Since buying the house and moving in, we’ve painted the entire interior and are gradually adding ‘essentials’ such as a new hot water system, picket fencing and ultimately, a new kitchen. The kitchen will be built around a wonderful vintage, fully-reconditioned gas-powered cream and green cast iron Kooka stove (left) which has been converted for modern use. We bought it some time ago and it’s presently sitting in the dining room to display my original set of enamel teapots and matching Dutch oven and steamer set” tells Kelly.
Other modifications planned for modern living include the inclusion of two bedrooms in the roof (which is wonderfully spacious and will easily accommodate two bedrooms for the boys) and the addition of a deck off the kitchen at the back of the house. But in the meantime, the three bedroom home – with its spacious lounge and separate dining room, its vintage kitchen and original bathroom, deep shady front verandah so typical of bungalow architecture, its combination of hardwood and cypress pine floorboards and its other quirky period features – offers Kelly and Billy enough decorating opportunities … for now!
Kelly best describes her decorating style as ‘nostalgic country’ … something that is certainly portrayed throughout the home’s entire interior. From the master bedroom with its half-tester bed draped with vintage lace, to the kitchen with its beautiful old meatsafes, original dressers and collections of enamelware and vintage china; from the dining room where more of the Mott’s original enamelware is displayed to passageways leading to the various rooms that play host to unique pieces such as an Edwardian cane commode, an ornate antique mangle which originally came from Hahndorf in South Australia (below left), an American Empire ice chest (below middle) and 1930s meatsafe complete with original blue paint finish and draped with calico sugar bags from the 1930s (below right) … the house brims with wonderful old treasures which complement the period style of the abode, at the same time offering up a wonderful slice of the past in the here and now.
“I guess we were blessed to have all the right pieces to go into the house and, vice versa, were very fortunate to find the right home to go with all our old furnishings and collected wares. We did have to get rid of some of the old treasures we owned … a consequence of the fact that we were moving from a large farmhouse to a three-bedroom home in town, but what we now have around us is our very favourite, most special pieces” explains Kelly.
These include that marvellous cast iron Kooka stove with its four burners, roasting oven and separate grill (right). Eight meatsafes are also a significant part of the inventory, including a compact 19th century pine one from the Barossa Valley (left) which features a single cupboard and drawer in the lower section, the unit being used to display just some of the family’s original enamel canisters, teapots and jugs. On a late 1800s scrubbed pine dresser (below left), Kelly’s favourite collection of vintage and antique Asiatic Pheasant ironstone dinnerware is put on show while on another scrubbed pine meatsafe-based dresser with original mesh insets (below middle & right), a collection of old willow china from a range of different English makers further reveals her enduring love of blue and white ceramics. Also in the dining room – where most of the vintage china is displayed – there’s a robust scrubbed pine vintage farmhouse table and original pressback chairs. Here, as in most other parts of the house, the walls are painted a fresh, creamy yellow called ‘Mill Flour’ by Dulux, the colour being the perfect foil for the warm golden tones of much of the Mott’s vintage wooden furnishings.
The bed in the master bedroom is another significant piece Billy and Kelly could never part with. It’s an original double half-tester that has been professionally modified to now be queen size. Over the tester, Kelly displays a collection of vintage lace panels and old lingerie, including pairs of pantaloons which were once worn by the ladies of the late 19th century. The bed is dressed with a Marcella quilt, matching pillow shams and a 1920s pieced quilt top which Kelly bought from America. At the end of the bed an old enamel ewer and basin – with matching bedpan which once belonged to Billy’s grandparents – sits on its original cast iron stand.
In the bedroom, as in various other parts of the house, Kelly’s passion for bears – both vintage and artisan-designed – as well as her love of old scales is well evidenced. A beautiful teddy called ‘Edwina’ which was made by Victorian bear artist Sue Alvey of ‘Charlotte Rose Bears’ is dressed in a gown of vintage lace (left & below left) and sits inside a wonderful Victorian perambulator, resplendent in original condition. In the corner of the room, atop a meatsafe – which came from Billy’s grandparents – is a set of vintage Hanson nursery scales (made in Chicago, USA) which is the venue for the display of a pair of bears (below middle), one being a much-loved souvenir from the 1920s. Kelly has several other sets of the coveted nursery scales as well as wonderful artisan bears, including a collection of Gilson Bears (by artisan Carol Gilson) which are unique handcrafted teddies of ‘military breeding’ … gorgeous chaps embellished with old war memorabilia and other such vintage items to play up their respective army and navy affiliations (below right).
In all, the house, its furnishings and unique collectable contents all combine to create a wonderful slice of yesteryear character which is still very much a part of the here and now. “It’s like living in the past, in the present. We have tried to always procure original pieces – never reproductions – so that authenticity is retained. And the other thing we’ve paid attention to is the aspect of handmade as we’ve added a collection of handcrafted items – especially cloth dolls and bears – in the best traditions of the country ways of old” states Kelly.
“Coming home each day not only offers the promise of personal refuge and sanctuary, but also means that when we cross the threshold we can step back in time as well … to where things were less complicated and more honest and sentimental. I guess ‘sentimentality’ really is one of the key guiding forces in the way that I love to decorate as it means so much to both Billy and I to be surrounded by things that have come from the family and thus have special meaning and a heart connection. Especially considering the fact that life has brought us from the farm and the people we love, to the town, they are all never far away due to the wonderful treasures which we have around us, each item representing a special memory and connection with a time, a place or a significant person” she adds. Call her sentimental indeed … there’s really no better way to make a house a home!
An Enchanting Approach
The true essence of enchantment
Lies in the promise of dreams
And the inspiration grasped by the greatest artist
(Louise De Culleon 1812 – 1893)
Some have a predilection for greenery swags and pine cones; others love rustic wooden ornaments and handcrafted fabric creations. Queenslander Ann-Marie Lavers-Grimm loves all these things in moderation. But for this talented country decorator, her greatest delight is dressing her home for the festive season with things that are shiny and bright … beautiful vintage and contemporary-made glass baubles and sparkling glass pebbles in silver, gold and clear which she artfully arranges on tabletops and benches throughout the entire interior of her home to create a wide series of enchanting vignettes.
Ann-Marie and husband Trevor live in a superb, contemporary-built Queenslander on half an acre of land with views across to Fraser Island, on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. They purchased the property some fifteen years ago when it was two years old, and since that time have worked tirelessly to make the weatherboard residence – with its tongue-and groove interior walls, hardwood flooring and cathedral ceilings – their own by way of employing an individual interpretation of country style decorating and furnishing. No time of the year is the couple’s individual interpretation of the country look better evidenced than around Christmas, especially when Ann-Marie hauls out her vast collection of delicate glass ornaments and decorations and starts to transform the look within each room. The process normally commences around the beginning of December and usually takes a few days, with treatments carried out in sympathy with the main colour scheme in each space.
With a combination of old and newly-made glass baubles, an array of handcrafted ornaments, flotsam and jetsam that has been collected on the beach and given a gold painted finish, vintage Christmas treasures, things of metal and wood, traditional Santa figures and heavenly angels, ornaments fashioned in tribute to man’s best friend and his feline equivalent, plus a host of other such distinctive decorations, the interior of the Lavers-Grimm’s home takes on an enchanting look that annually delights all visitors – family and friends alike.
While Ann-Marie is professionally employed in a local pharmacy, after seeing how she artfully adorns her house for the Christmas season, one can be forgiven for thinking that she might be a professional display artist. While not formally trained in such disciplines, she attributes a deal of her passion and ability to group and balance objects together in visually pleasing, innovative and well-balanced arrangements to her grandmother who was also naturally talented at such things and had a wonderful home that was brimming with all sorts of ornamentation and unique collectables.
Come Christmastime, Ann-Marie’s love of the festive season, and her great skill at creating unique decorative arrangements throughout all the rooms of her Queensland home, really come to the fore. From its wide front verandah to its master bedroom, from its guest quarters and office to its open-plan spacious living area which incorporates entrance and kitchen, dining and lounge, the home of the Lavers-Grimm provides a wonderfully rustic country ‘stage’ on which Ann-Marie annually works her Christmas decorating magic.
Each year there’s different themes chosen for different displays. A huge dried twig tree in the lounge room – the ideal means of showcasing a wide collection of burgundy and gold glass ornaments and decorations – was the star attraction one year, and then the next a cane conical tree took its place, surrounded by amber glass collectables. White feathered doves – once used for a pink and white tree – now adorn a garland of greenery across the windows in the living area, with fairy lights intertwined. Ornaments which pay tribute to cats and dogs decorate the branches of a dowel tree which sits on the verandah and was made for Ann-Marie by her father-in-law some 20 years ago.
Vintage ornaments of glass and figural decorations of various mediums are grouped together in bowls and displayed on benches and table tops. They are dotted amongst the china and glassware on dressing tables and buffets; they’re placed where the soft illumination of table-top lamps will show them off to best advantage; and they’re even incorporated into pre-existing displays on bookcases and dresser shelves filled with china.
“I usually collect interesting pieces – glass ornaments and other such decorations – throughout the year … from department and country stores as well as garage sales, op shops and the like, and group them in the various rooms of the house so that they reflect the main colour theme in each space … from purples and olive greens in the guest quarters to navy and white in the master bedroom and traditional red and green in the office. Even the front door has its own special treatment, with a wide ribbon used to give the impression that the front door has been gift wrapped” explains Ann-Marie.
The ultimate result, as the pictures here attest, is completely enchanting as Ann-Marie’s Christmas decorating style adds a unique, personal quality to what is a distinct, wonderfully rustic country home overlooking the Pacific within an idyllic Queensland coastal setting.
Plainly, Positively Primitive!
There’s a charm that is embodied
In everything that’s true…
That’s simple and wholesome
That’s positively primitive, through and through
(Elsie Whitely 1825 – 1899)
One look at the interior of any room tells the tale. While some love a cottagey English country look and others are into a more rustic and rugged interpretation, some dote on a retro country style and still others like things elegant and classically appointed. According to Deb and Robert Garrard of southeastern Victoria, all this is very well and good for others, but for this couple there is only one way to go … and that’s positively primitive!
In a tale of ‘she does, he does’, the Garrards are one of those inspiring couples where Deb comes up with lots of ideas and inspiration, and Robert interprets them with saw and drill, hammer, paint and other such tools essential to the home handyman. Deb too is forever creating, although the disciplines she tackles are more ‘genteel’ and require such things as a sewing machine and Parisian essence, needle and thread. Another great ‘ally’ in the pair’s passions for all things primitive is the computer as they trawl the online markets of the world in pursuit of that next perfect piece for their home.
As Deb tells, she has been passionate about the primitive country look – which has its roots in the heartland of America’s New England region and parts of the Midwest – since the early 1990s and has devoted much time to not only acquiring and creating decorative items to help achieve the look here in Australia, but to also understanding the background and heritage of the style. Robert has also been bitten by the bug in terms of his delight in making pieces of country furniture that suit the look, so many of which are never to be found here on the domestic market. His skill at such things often staggers Deb who tells “he can look at an image in an American magazine and instantly work out a way whereby he can make it. The cogs start turning and I know in an instant he has formulated in his mind the exact process of execution. And of course, by doing so, he has produced for our home everything from a Shaker-inspired grandfather clock to several dry sinks, racks to display my ever-increasing dough bowl collection, Shaker tables, peg rails and wooden lamps.”
The home in which Deb and Robert live was designed and built by them 11 years ago. Three bedrooms with open-plan main living areas which spill over into a country cookroom; the home is as much a testament to the pair’s ability as designers as it is to their talent as decorators. And, of course, it’s a showcase for all their wonderful primitive wares.
The process of fine-tuning their previously broad, general interests in country décor to the very specific world of primitives, combined with a love of rustic and nostalgic country wares, has taken a number of years and has been influenced by various factors. As Deb tells, when she discovered her first Country Sampler magazine from America, she was hooked. “And then there was the original stable of Australian Country Collections magazines written by Rick which brought to the nation the first real insights we had seen into how the look could be interpreted here. My first step into this world began with the making of cloth dolls using American patterns and gradually I began devising my own patterns. I loved to make them really grungy, despite the fact that some people thought that they were just that bit too ugly” she tells
Then Robert was enlisted to take up the carpentry tools and tackle the task of making the first pieces of primitive American furniture, thereby replicating the look of the U.S.’s earliest colonial settlers. As the years have progressed, to the equation Deb has added Amish bonnets and a range of original vintage clothing pieces. Her greatest passion is now collecting American antique and vintage dough bowls (which, thanks to Roberts, have their own display racks), braided rugs and firkins (original wooden buckets) … her best aid in acquiring such distant and often hard-to-find pieces being eBay. Then there’s also a wide collection of wonderful handcrafted ornies – many from crafters in America and others handmade here – which are displayed on a tree permanently on show in the Garrard’s lounge room. As Deb tells, each one holds a special memory of the maker and, to her, represents a little piece of their heart. They’re interspersed with a growing array of small redware and tiny yellow ware bowls which, like so many of her other decorative primitive treasures, Deb has sourced in the States.
The Garrards are also avid garage sale and secondhand store shoppers, and have the great knack of being able to pick up a bargain and transform it into something special by way of a little paint and imagination. All their collected, handcrafted, restored and revived wares come together to create a home that is as unique as it is immediately personal.
Walls throughout the interior of the home are painted a rich cream, or are otherwise a buttery yellow, with timber wainscot and wallpaper borders imported direct from America above. On the floor there’s terracotta tiles through the main living areas – softened with traditional American-style braided rugs – and pale cream wool carpet in the bedrooms. Baltic pine cabinetry has been used in the kitchen – which features a separate scullery with open shelves to display an abundance of stores and cookroom wares. Star attraction within the kitchen is Robert’s pride and joy – a five-burner Savoir Faire European gas oven.
At the back of the house, just off the laundry, the Garrards have closed in a verandah area to create a wonderful country breezeway which is the ideal space to take breakfast and sit reading the paper. And, of course, it has also provided yet another prime venue for the display of more of their wonderful primitive, handmade and other country treasures, including meat safes, Americana, and large metal barn stars which hang on the wall.
Acquired, collected or handcrafted, wonderful accessories gleaned from a variety of places all over the world – and from here in Australia – are indeed the essential decorative elements within the Garrard’s home and each make their own significant contribution to help create a marvellous primitive country theme throughout the interior. There’s a range of vintage coverlets and handmade cushions which are arrayed within the lounge and bedrooms; there’s a collection of wooden chequerboards which have been either brought from overseas, sourced locally or handmade.
There are wonderful grungy country dolls – many of which have been handcrafted by Deb – and fabric crows, vintage enamelware and shelves trimmed with pip berry garlands. There are bears and dough bowls, Santa figurines and feather trees in most rooms (these being left out all year round). There are old electric jugs, baskets and birdhouses.
And of course there are all the clever handcrafted carpentry touches that Robert has added too … from the aforementioned handmade furnishings to fretwork above doorways, a marvellous set of scalloped time shutters on the window above the bath, Shaker peg rails to display Deb’s ever-growing collection of original Amish bonnets and aprons, tiny spice cabinets and the list goes on and on.
As Deb tells “We have both become so passionate about the primitive style of country decorating, and our fascination with colonial America never seems to wane. If anything, it grows stronger with each new piece of rustic furniture Robert crafts and each new primitive ornie, vintage dough bowl, firkin, braided rug or Amish treasure I find and collect. I have had so much joy dealing with so many people throughout the United States during the time I have been building the various collections, and they have always been wonderfully generous and friendly. I can just imagine what their own homes must be like and how visitors are surely made to feel so warmly welcomed.
“To me this is an essential part of living and decorating the country way … having a generosity of spirit and a love of sharing both heart and home with others. Australians are still, in many ways, a little too wary and ‘closed off’ from others around them, but I believe that if we all adopted the ‘country approach’ and relished more in our collective heritage and each one’s own personal history – placing more emphasis on wonderful vintage treasures and the unique quality of handcrafted things at the same time – and are willing to openly share these with others, I really think we would all be so much more content. It’s the simple and wholesome things in life that really matter, and for us these are certainly embodied in everything that’s ‘positively primitive’ ” Deb adds.
Treasures To Haul Home
We can only be said to be alive
in those moments when our hearts
are conscious of our treasures.
(Thornton Wilder 1897 – 1975)
How long is a piece of string? The answer is as open-ended and potentially contentious as the questions ‘when is a house finished?’ and ‘when is a collection complete?’ For Victorian couple Jane MacDonald and Steve Moore, the answer to the two latter questions is in the stars!
The country-loving, home-building, decorating and collecting pair have absolutely no idea when they will ever reach the end … if there is an end. “No time soon” is the general consensus as Jane and Steve continue to dream up new things to do to their charming contemporary-built period-style home; as they find new country decorating treatments to tackle; and are ever on the hunt for more treasures – both old and new – to haul home and add to their impressive ever-growing collections.
As Jane tells, the couple first started building their dream home in 2000 on a quarter acre block in south-western Victoria, completing the Victorian Federation-style brick residence the following year. The three-bedroom residence features both formal and informal living areas plus a study and is surrounded by beautifully-tended gardens which the pair have painstakingly installed themselves.
In fact, when it comes to customising a home to truly make it one’s own, Jane and Steve are masters. A mild-mannered dock worker by day, of a night and weekend Steve turns into a talented country carpenter with such an obsessed passion that, since the main home building has been completed, he has made close to 90 percent of all the timber furnishings inside, as well as a marvellous deck (with recycled balustrading rescued from a local tip) which wraps around the side and rear of the house, and a wide array of other restored and recycled features for the home – both inside and out.
Steve’s wood-working skills were learnt from his father – a talented furniture maker whose speciality is the timeless style of America’s renowned Shaker carpenters. Left to his own devices, over the years Steve has honed his furniture-making skills to now not only be able to tackle most projects from scratch, but to also specialise in restoring old discarded pieces, bringing them back from the brink and returning them to their original style and function.
“If I had a dollar for the number of times I have changed the blades on the electric planer to cut back and sand old timbers and bring them back to life, I’d be a wealthy man” Steve states. “My favourite haunt is the old salvage yards where I’ve picked up some incredible finds. Even the balustrading for the wrap-around deck and most of the components which went into the cubby house I built for our three-year-old son William came from the local recycling depot. William loves his own ‘home’ in the yard, especially as it has hardwood timber flooring and dado panelling inside just like the ‘big house’ ” adds Steve.
While out ‘hunting treasures’ to haul home, over the years Steve has also found a huge cache of other vintage wares … from cast iron baths to turn into plots to grow vegies, to cart wheels and even the entire contents of an old shed. “The shed was part of the items sold at a deceased estate auction. It was a fantastic haul of woodworkers’ screws and bolts, tinware, timber, enamel trays and all sorts of other wonderful bits and pieces. I’ve already used a lot for a variety of projects about the place, the rest being housed in my ‘lair’ which is a custom-built Colorbond-roofed shed at the back of the property” tells Steve.
But if one thinks that Steve is the only one out and about, picking up country chattels for the home, think again! A self-confessed ‘craftaholic’ and ‘collector extraordinaire’, Jane is a seasoned attendee of every craft store within miles, garage sales, antique and secondhand shops, markets, fetes and any other such outlets or events which present opportunities to find more wonderful wares with which to decorate and adorn the home. She is an expert at eBay auctions, has hosted her fair share of party-plan gatherings for like-minded country decorators and collectors in her local area, and is also regularly on the hunt for hand-crafted items made by regional artisans.
“Over the years I’ve travelled a fair distance in an effort to find unusual and interesting bits and pieces for the house and garden. And when Steve and I join forces on a weekend ‘treasure haul’, we can end up bringing home anything from an old pedestal basin – to plant out with annuals in the garden – to a rusty tin chest, vintage watering cans, a clapped-out old lawn mower and anything else that’s interesting and will add its own dash of character about the place” Jane states.
The exterior of the home features a striking two-tone brick treatment, with cream bricks to the height of the window sills, and then rustic terracotta bricks above. The timber trim is cream with touches of ‘Ironstone Blue’ – the colour inspiring the couple to name their house ‘Ironstone Cottage’. A Federation-style woven-wire fence at the very front of the property, carved timber corner brackets on the verandah and window awnings that are topped with blue-toned Colorbond, rambling cottage gardens, vegetable plots, and a charming picket gate leading onto the side verandah all signify from the outside that this is a very special country abode.
But it is not until one is inside – across the threshold – that the true decorating skill and country passions of Jane and Steve are fully realised. The entrance to the home features serviceable terracotta tile flooring and ‘Savannah’ walls by Bristol, with an American border which Jane bought from Mallee Cottage Collections (see Business Directory). Fretwork corner brackets in ‘Ironstone Blue’ carry the theme in from outdoors. A wide collection of folk art pieces and collectables furnish the space, greeting all who venture to the door with a wholesome country welcome.
The entrance leads into the home’s formal lounge and dining area with its blue-grey wool carpeting and cedar venetians. The lounge is furnished with a suite of three-seater, two-seater and matching wingback and ottoman, all the chairs featuring robust rolled arms. Ordinarily reserved for guests and family entertaining, Jane admits that the room has become the favourite haunt of the family’s three ‘fur kids’ … felines Oliver, Molly and Georgia! In the adjoining dining space, a superb table was crafted by Steve from a piece of vintage oregon while the sideboard – made from a combination of baltic, Scots and pitch pine – was assembled from timbers which were originally used more than 100 years ago for the floor and shelving of a local shop.
From this part of the house, the kitchen and family room is accessed. A cedar buffet crafted by Steve from old western red cedar window frames is decorated with the family’s ever-growing collection of vintage scales and aluminium canisters while a huge oregon buffet – which Steve made from a 300-year-old beam from an old Geelong wool store – displays a wide selection of blue and white china, including vintage Willow and ironstone pieces, many of which came from vintage and antique stores in Victoria’s Maldon region. A circular table crafted by Steve from vintage cedar timbers and white French provincial-style chairs with cane seating – picked up in a local Op Shop – provide a place for the taking of daily meals.
The kitchen of the Jane and Steve’s delightful country home features laminated timber cabinetry and benchtops in a blue-grey Formica … another tribute to the ‘Ironstone Cottage’ theme. The galley formation of the kitchen is achieved by way of an island bench to one side with bulkhead above. It features an integrated sink and doubles as a handy breakfast bar. A crisp white tiled splashback – with floral yellow feature panel – enhances the bright, fresh feel of the space. In the adjoining family room, a half wall divides the area from a rumpus room – furnished with a delightful leadlight cabinet and hand-crafted quilt on the wall above – where William happily plays … in close proximity of Mum and Dad in neighbouring space.
As would be expected, the decorating delights continue into the other ‘wet rooms’ – the bathroom and laundry – where imported wallpaper borders (again from Mallee Cottage Collections) make a major contribution to the country mood, as do lots of interesting timber wares and collectables. The bedrooms too reflect the theme of fresh, contemporary country style achieved with striking wallpaper border treatments, wooden furnishings (again most made by Steve, of course, including a Victorian myrtle dressing table and tallboy made from 120 year old baltic timbers in the master bedroom) and well-chosen collectable wares.
“If you ask us when we will ever be finished decorating, making things for the home and collecting, the answer definitely is related to that other question … ‘how long is a piece of string’?” jokes Jane. Perhaps it’s somewhere in the realm of ‘completely unknown’!
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