At home with Jason Mowen

After years spent living in cities, designer and writer Jason Mowen is now planning to divide his time between a weatherboard cottage in Murrurundi and a palazzo in Italy’s Puglia.

Jason Mowen waited until he was 45 to buy his first house. But this interior designer’s choice of a weatherboard cottage in the country four-and-half-hours north of Sydney was a surprise to many. “My friends thought I was crazy, but the more people told me not to do it, the more determined I became,” Jason says today, sitting in his elegant book-lined living room in Murrurundi, a NSW town famous for the thoroughbred studs dotted throughout the area.

The horse connection is an important one in this story. Based in Sydney’s inner-city Darlinghurst for a decade, Jason is the first to admit that on the surface his decision to opt for rural life was a surprising one, until you learn he grew up on a property in the rolling green hills around Maleny in Queensland.
“My mother and grandfather used to breed racehorses and I remember her speaking of Murrurundi when I was a kid. Then I went to university in Armidale in the early 90s and I always remembered this quaint little town with the long name that I used to drive through on my way to Sydney,” he explains.
“I drove through again in late 2015 and just fell in love with the place. It felt unspoiled: it wasn’t gentrified nor ruined with bad development. It was also really affordable and I loved that no-one back in Sydney had heard of it.”

On top of Jason’s lists of requirements was a place where his mother Jicky would also be happy to spend time. This meant any prospective new home needed to be in an area where this accomplished horsewoman’s beloved horses could be nearby — four of them are now on agistment in a nearby paddock — and so the search for a house began. Luckily, Jason was prepared to be patient because it was nearly a year before the right one came along.

“I was looking at both homes and land and after enquiring about another house, the local agent, Dave Bettington, told me: ‘Forget that one — have I got the house for you. Not on the market yet, but it’s perfect.’ It took a while but 10 months later I was the proud owner of a largish cottage on an acre-and-a-half at the northern edge of town.”

Walking around the garden on a late afternoon, it’s easy to understand why, even though he had not originally planned to live in the property full time, Jason soon began to find it harder and harder to leave this quiet sanctuary with its abandoned tennis court and majestic pine trees soaring into the sky.
“In late 2019, I decided to give up the apartment I’d been renting for 10 years in Darlinghurst and move to the home I loved, and owned, in Murrurundi, as I felt I could do much of my work remotely,”
he explains.

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

Feature courtesy of the The Murrurundi Argus, story by Victoria Carey, photography by Nicola Sevitt.