Australian House & Garden June 2017

Change of pace

Searching for a NSW weekender to escape the city snarl took one family blissfully off course.
STORY  &  STYLING  Natalie Walton  |   PHOTOGRAPHY  Chris Warnes

This is the life

Owners Merrilyn and Tony have four children – three sons and a daughter, aged 15 to 24 – and all travel to the property whenever they can. If not relaxing or helping with improvements, they take care of stockhorse Mouse (below left) and warmblood Mackenzie, who are agisted elsewhere during the week. Though it’s a lot of work, the rewards are many. As Merrilyn puts it: “We finally got the farm Tony’s always talked about!”

Built to last

Cooranbong Valley is a mixture of weekenders and local residents, some with a long history of farming and logging in the area. Cedar, mahogany, turpentine and blackbutt are the most common timbers. This house is mostly cedar, a beautiful softwood. Aside from its warm honeyed tones, the low density makes it an ideal insulator inside and good cladding material outside. Its pleasing fragrance can also linger for years.

Sydneysiders Merrilyn and her husband Tony had been looking for a place to escape with their four children on weekends for six months. After scouring Sydney’s Northern Beaches, the couple did an about-turn on the location. Refocusing the search were Tony’s nostalgia for his childhood, when he spent a lot of time on relatives’ farms in Tasmania, and his daughter’s growing interest in horse riding. Their second home also had to be within an hour’s commute from Sydney and easily accessible from the freeway.

The couple found a 20ha property in the Cooranbong Valley with an established home and gardens, close to a town with reasonable services. Its location, on the edge of Watagans National Park, was beautiful, and the previous owners had operated a horse stud there. Five years on, considerable time and effort has been spent on making improvements in the home, renovating the machinery shed, stables and wash bay, replacing fences and upgrading the access road and dressage area. The house gets its water supply from rainwater tanks while the gardens and stock are fed from the dam; fire- hazard reduction is another area they’ve tackled.
“The list goes on!” says Merrilyn.

Built in 2003 by the previous owner, the four-bedroom, two-bathroom, brick-veneer home had some great features, including a vaulted cedar ceiling, timber deck, and a verandah that’s been expanded to match the total size of the living space, as well as a pool. The house is at the rear of the block and its elevated position makes the most of views across the valley. Surrounded by nature, they adore the bright stars of the dark country nights, away from the city lights. “Though Tony and I were immediately attracted to the property, we were concerned about the large size of the house and the dilapidated cottage in need of major renovation,” says Merrilyn. “But in hindsight, it was a great buy for us.”

Interior designer Lynne Bradley, who had decorated their Sydney home, was asked to update the house and renovate the cottage. “Continuity was very important so the home didn’t become disjointed,” says Lynne. “My selection of green and grey wall colours was to counteract the orange timbers throughout and provide a stylish backdrop for other colours to shine.”

Under Lynne’s direction, cabinets and pine furniture the family had owned for up to 30 years were also painted and some given a contemporary feel with leather pull handles from MadeMeasure. The projects are ongoing, but have given the couple a great sense of achievement. “Tony and I have done a lot of hard yakka,” Merrilyn laughs. It’s a different life to living by the coast, but seeing the property transformed has clearly been worth it.    


Lynne Bradley Interiors, Lindfield, NSW;
M: 041 219 2929

“Living up here makes you want to take a deep breath,” says Merrilyn. Simple updates helped to freshen the space. An existing table was painted Dulux Guild Grey and topped with white laminated glass; the seats were softened with chair pads in hard-wearing Globe material by Warwick Fabrics. Artworks bought at a Sydney market. Smart buy: Madras jute rug (250cm), $399, Freedom.

The family loves the holiday home’s location, with its abundant bird life, wallabies, resident goanna, echidnas and wombats. It’s also half an hour to their daughter’s horses and dressage facilities.

Merrilyn and Tony worked with interior designer Lynne Bradley to create a warm, welcoming feel, integrating the existing 4.8m tree-trunk feature and limestone benchtop. A fireplace surround was designed to house the TV and make the space look more seamless. Corrugated iron was removed from the chimney and tiles from Academy Tiles were applied to the fascia. The mantel is a 200kg piece of timber. Rug, Armadillo&Co. Lynne’s plan for the kitchen was mostly to calm it down, replacing a bright blue oven with a stainless-steel one and painting the cupboards Dulux Grey Pail. Lynne had slipcovers made to cover a well-used King Living sofa. Mirror, West Elm. 

A tired pine cabinet was revitalised with a coat of Dulux Guild Grey. Artwork, Designer Boys Collections. Rug, Armadillo&Co. 

This space has been reworked with a Reece Kado Lure bath for long post-ride soaks. The tiles are in black and a concrete-look porcelain. 

Pattern and texture add interest in the smallest room. Bedheads in Warwick Fabrics Dolce. Lattice cushions, Tigger Hall Design. Polaris lamp, MRD Home. For similar bedlinen, try Pillow Talk. 

A favourite place for the family to relax and watch the horses run freely around the property. The merbau deck was finished in at least two coats of Cabot’s Deck & Exterior Stain. Smart buy: Byholma wicker chairs, from $169 each, Ikea.

Pretty and horse-mad’ was the brief. The walls were painted in Dulux Indolence. Linen, Bed Bath N’ Table. Artworks, Designer Boys Collections. Table lamp, Freedom.

Mostly used by Tony, this is just off the main bedroom. The panelled pine desk and shelves were painted Dulux Guild Grey to achieve a classic look. Chair, James Said. Sierra Weave rug, Armadillo&Co.

Merrilyn has lovely baskets, crates and pots with succulents dotted around. The herbs are rosemary.

Mouse and Mackenzie have a well-earned snack with Zac the labradoodle looking on.

Fabrics make it cosy. Chair, Pottery Barn. Ottoman, Winton House.