Fortunately, when Margaret saw it 10 years ago, she had her rose-coloured glasses firmly in place, and a rather brave husband, Peter, by her side. Having previously lived on a farm in Armidale and in a “big old house” in Bangalow, the couple knew they wanted acreage with a creek, four bedrooms and close proximity to Byron Bay. “It ticked all the boxes, but aesthetically it was horrible,” recalls Margaret. “Still, I said to Pete, ‘I reckon I can do something with this.’”
The 38-acre estate had bare, barbed-wire fenced paddocks and a serious mould problem, but the couple quickly set to work cleaning it out, adding a lush garden and pool, then waited until they had the time and money to renovate properly – which they did three years ago. That entailed gutting the entire building, converting the garage into a luxurious library and closing in the wraparound veranda to allow an extra living room. They also restored the bedrooms at the back.
While the home’s footprint is identical, those poky front rooms have now morphed into a spacious living/dining/kitchen area, and the low gyprock ceiling opens up to expose the original timber trusses. “It was a really hot house and needed a lot more airflow as it faces north, but we wanted privacy so we put a lot more trees in,” says Margaret.
Resisting the Byron call to whitewash everything, Margaret opted for a darker, moodier palette, which somehow still feels light. “When I started painting the walls medium-grey, everyone had a go at me,” she explains, “but I said, ‘Don’t worry, our [Australian] sun can take it.’ Besides, warm colours make it feel cosy.”
The real magic – the stuff that makes you draw breath – comes from the interior designer’s unbridled decorating style.
It’s that knack for pushing boundaries and pairing the impossible that draws clients to her dynamic interior design business, Alida And Miller, which she co-owns with daughter Kit.
With grandchildren, pets and friends dropping in daily – their best friend, Nick, and Jack Russell Rossie also officially live here – it’s all about fun and friendship, with multiple living areas and happy snaps at every glance. “I don’t care if people walk in with mud on their shoes,” says Margaret. “I want them to go, ‘Wow I feel really comfortable here.’ That’s my top priority.” And if they get a little extra-sensory explosion while they’re there, she couldn’t be happier.
Inspired by darker, brightly tiled European kitchens, Margaret opted for dazzling blue Tera Nova ‘Santiago’ encaustic cement tiles for the floor and partial splashback, and a moody shade of indigo for the cabinets (try Taubmans Daring Indigo). “With open-plan, you need each area to have its own individual style, yet work seamlessly with each other,” she says.
“Just buy a plain wooden table and paint it any colour you like”Margaret
Who says libraries are dull and musty? Margaret’s favourite space – once a garage, no less – is bursting with eccentricities, including an eye-catching peacock, flamboyant Moroccan mirror and Louis XV-style armchairs (try Living Styles for all). The chairs are softened with pastel pink cushions and plush sheepskin throws – you can find similar at Bonnie And Neil, Big W or Jumbled Online.
“Rugs are like art, it’s a very personal thing,” says Margaret. “You need to take the floor surface and colour into consideration before anything else. Then think about the hard furnishings – couches, coffee table – what are their colours and textures?”
In case you were in any doubt, a snapshot of the Alida And Miller office at the front of the home demonstrates its boundless approach to colour and style. The ‘Magnolia Mural’ wallpaper is from Anewall, and springs to life with wild flowers displayed in a vase from Mullum In Style Living, matching side lamp (try Freedom Furniture for similar) and neon signage produced by Neon Collective.
The main bedroom is surprisingly minimal, almost muted, thanks to a simple metal Temple & Webster bed frame, a Beacon Lighting table lamp and bedlinen in elegant shades of Sage and Milk sourced from Cultiver. “Even though we’re maximalists, I think too much clutter in your bedroom can send you crazy,” says Margaret.
There’s still lots of character in the leafy Bonnie And Neil cushion and retro-style Valencia ‘Sleigh’ bedside table from Globe West.
“It is nice to make bathrooms a little glamorous,” says Margaret, who valiantly covered the bathroom walls in famous ‘Egrets’ in Smalt Oriental Blue Florence Broadhurst wallpaper by Signature Prints. Wallpaper is fine in a well-ventilated bathroom, she insists. So, too, a chandelier – provided it’s not hanging over the bath. (Margaret’s is a claw-foot freestanding tub with tap fittings from Reece.) Dark subway tiles halfway up the walls, from Byron Bay Tiles, and hexagonal floor tiles from Tera Nova add depth and drama, while fresh flowers and photos keep it homey.
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