Creating country comforts

Interior designer Naomi Findlay writes about completing the first stage of restoring
the country charm of Waukivory Estate.

Those of you who have read my first article about Waukivory Estate may remember that this site had been unloved and abandoned for over a decade. What had once been a thriving dairy farm with fields of crops by the river was nothing more than a home for termites and wildlife, a dumping ground for unwanted belongings of its former owners.

Our vision seemed so simple when we embarked on this project. We were not going to create some sort of modernist palace, an over the top structure that would look out of place in this lovely rural setting about 20 minutes outside of Gloucester. Instead, we would reinstate, reinvigorate and re-energise the run-down buildings with a simple, traditional Australian farmhouse feel. Suffice to say that we had fallen head over heels in love with a romantic notion of country comfort. With our fair share of reno and building projects under our collective belts, surely this was going to be fun.

First up was The Cottage. And with the magic of rural Australia came a whole set of unforeseen challenges. Challenges that in hindsight seem so painfully obvious. We had no power. Sanitation was a challenge (let’s leave it at that), and thanks to trusty termites nibbling away, undisturbed for nearly 15 years, structural integrity was dubious at best.

To say that this has been an arduous journey would be an utter understatement. I have never shied away from a big project or from physically demanding work. I roll up my sleeves and get on with it. But The Cottage has had me in tears and I have often sat somewhere on the construction site, covered in dust, aching from head to toe, wondering why I had embarked on this project in the first place.

nvariably, I would end up with the same conclusion. I believe that the magic, the spirit of this property was putting up a fight, it wasn’t going to come back to life if we weren’t prepared to give this our all. I kept thinking of the poet Keats who tells us that true elation and joy can never be felt unless we have known true sorrow.

Well, the good news is that we rose to the challenge and The Cottage is oozing the simple charms of the country once again.We made it through leaking roofs, floods, landslides and falling fences, through winter rain coming in horizontally and temperatures so cold I couldn’t get my fingers moving. We even managed to get the cattle back out of the house and got rid of the steaming piles of surprises they had left us with.

Designing this renovation, I was guided by the principles of connection and comfort. The connection we feel when entering the property, and the comfort that envelopes us when standing quietly, listening to the trees and the grass, the gurgling sounds of the river and the occasional moo signalling (ahem) cow comfort.

My goal was to translate that connection and comfort to The Cottage – on a budget of course.
The first obvious step was to make the house safe to enter (yes it really was that bad). Then we worked out how to connect every single room with its natural surroundings, how to maximise the floor plan to allow for modern living in a traditional home and how to add all the creature comforts while staying within our budget.

Read more in the Spring issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Photography by Michelle Swan, Eyes of Love Photography