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A grand Hamptons country cottage in the Southern Highlands

Keeping pace with their growing family, a creative couple embarks on the third renovation of this classic, American-inspired country cottage.
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When visitors first step into this grand country cottage in the NSW Southern Highlands, they’re bound to catch the sweet, floral scent of blooming hydrangeas. Clusters of the delicate flower are arranged in ceramic vases in every room of the two-storey home (of which there are numerous), plucked straight from the property’s sprawling gardens.

“We never have a shortage of fresh flowers in the house in the warmer months when the hydrangeas are in bloom. It means I can have magnificent displays using all the different, gorgeous hues we have growing,” explains homeowner and interior designer Melinda Hartwright, whose green-thumb husband Tom can be credited with transforming the once-sparse backyard into a hydrangea haven over the course of nine years. “They also dry beautifully, so you can have dried arrangements during the winter months as well,” she adds.

PICTURE PERFECT This storybook-like house in the NSW Southern Highlands is as charming outside as it is within. It’s here, on the verandah and verdant lawn, that owners Melinda, her husband Tom and their children come together to savour the sunshine. “Lazy Sundays with all the family by the pool is my favourite place to be, surrounded by the glorious garden, masses of hydrangeas and a deep blue sky. It’s so quiet, secluded and peaceful here,” Melinda shares. “And Tom will always be doing something in the garden, no matter the weather.”

Who lives here? Melinda and Tom with their three children Charlie, 15, Polly 12, and Amelia, 10, along with the family’s toy cavoodle Ruby.

Favourite room? Melinda: “The powder room. Going in there gives me such a shot of happiness and makes me want to linger. It’s full of all the things I love.”

Top design rule? “Don’t buy it if you don’t absolutely love it. It’s your home and it has to make you happy.”

Weekend ritual? “We love eating out on the weekends as there are some wonderful country restaurants and pubs. It just means dragging Tom off the ride-on mower, which is the real challenge.”

PRETTY IN PINK Perched on a wicker barstool from Wisteria Design, Melinda enjoys a coffee beside home-grown hydrangeas. Schumacher ‘Arbre Chinois’ fabric in ‘Porcelain’ hangs behind her.

Home Beautiful readers might recall the original feature of this splendid house in our September 2016 issue, when the hands-on couple had completed their second upgrade of the property, or perhaps spotted their five-acre outdoor oasis in our recent May 2022 issue. It’s safe to say this isn’t their first Home Beautiful rodeo, but this time, we’re discovering the results of the third, and final, renovation of the magnificent cottage they call home.

KITCHEN Teranova Tiles in ‘Majorca Sky Blue Gloss’ are the perfect backdrop for crisp cabinetry in Dulux Vivid White. A Horchow lantern hangs above the Carrara marble benchtop, which Melinda says is “hard to maintain. I’d probably use engineered stone next time”.

Ruby pauses on the parquetry floors, which Melinda and Tom sanded and re-stained in a cool dark brown.

(Credit: Photography: Abbie Melle / Styling: Lisa Burden)

Relocating from Sydney’s Northern Beaches in 2013, the family of five – including children Charlie, Poppy and Amelia, and toy cavoodle Ruby – quickly settled into their new abode in the heart of Bowral. Built in 1990 with soaring ceilings and East Coast American architecture, the house “had all the right bones when we bought it, but just needed tweaking and a little redesign to make it ideal,” Melinda says.

SUNROOM “This is one of my favourite rooms in the house year-round, as it’s a beautiful place to sit and take in the view,” Melinda says, referring to the leafy outlook of ornamental pear trees. Framed by French doors and Barclay Butera ‘Bilateral’ curtains in ‘Oceana’, the serene sunroom is evidence of the interior aficionado’s decades-long devotion to collecting beautiful furniture and homewares, such as the pair of custom spool armchairs upholstered by MHI in Penny Morrison ‘Nankeeng Blue’ fabric.

“The room is a mix of precious antiques, vintage finds, new and upcycled pieces, all custom upholstered with beautiful fabrics and finished with bespoke cushions,” says Melinda, who styled mismatching cream and blue sofas. “Cushions are an easy way to enliven a room,” says Melinda. Table by Joe Vinks.

“The children were very little when we moved in and are now almost all teenagers, so our needs have changed, and the house has grown and evolved with us.” As part of this evolution, the last leg of the journey involved the addition of five new rooms, a substantial carport build, and redecoration of the sunroom, living room, master bedroom and ensuite. Each space reflects Melinda’s love for “classic, timeless American-inspired interiors”, a style that influences her own interior design consultancy, Melinda Hartwright Interiors (MHI).

LIVING ROOM “It’s a really warm, cosy and intimate room despite its scale. As with my other rooms, it has a combination of timber, fabric, painted furniture, metal, wicker and glass,” says Melinda.

Converted from a double garage in the third renovation, the spacious living room (above) is a refuge for the whole family. “As the kids got older, we needed a family room we could all fit into and pile on a big sofa together to watch movies,” Melinda says. Layers of pretty textiles (such as the Winton House rug, Freedom navy sofa and Peter Meyer Roman blinds) and a woodburning fireplace beat the winter chill, creating ambience and warmth.

The large house now boasts multiple cosy living areas for the family to share and enjoy. “It has been the most wonderful family home. We have so many treasured memories of our time here,” Melinda shares. “It’s such a treat to look around at your home and garden and think ‘wow, I’m so lucky to live here’, I just love this place.”

LIVING ROOM A trio of stacked artworks adds character to the room.

Blue walls, similar to Dulux Stream, create a cocooning effect in the snug room.

Before the pandemic, barely a week went by without a flurry of guests gathering around the three-metre dining table. Now, it’s mostly used for family dinners on the weekend.

DINING AREA Melinda recently reupholstered the dining chairs in Schumacher ‘Brickell Blue‘ fabric and created custom shades for the Arteriors pendant.

A soothing soft blue and cream palette sets the scene for relaxation in Melinda and Tom’s bedroom, where Thibaut textured wallpaper in ‘Largo Weave’ creates a peaceful backdrop. “I always want our bedroom to be calm, soothing and relaxing, with nothing too stimulating or statement making,” says Melinda.

MAIN BEDROOM Melinda redecorated with new Bragg & Co lamps, Rooms & Gardens bedding, and a bedhead upholstered in Brunschwig and Fils fabric.

BEDROOM NOOK This sweet blue sofa upholstered in Elliott Clarke ‘Florentine’ linen provides a sunny spot to recline and appreciate the garden view from the north-facing window. The Verandah House art print is a perfect fit, above a blue ceramic stool from Orient House.

The minimalistic artwork is from Designer Boys.

In the main bedroom, an ottoman is upholstered in Paolo Moschino ‘Bamboo Cane’ by MHI.

Powder rooms are a place for great frivolity and fun when it comes to decorating, so I always go to town with wallpaper. You’re only in them briefly, so make them joyful and fabulous,” Melinda suggests.

POWDER ROOM The powder room was refreshed with Schumacher ‘Khilana Floral’ wallpaper, paired with Dulux Roland on the wainscotting. For a personal touch, the framed watercolours were painted by Melinda’s father.

KIDS’ BATHROOM An acrylic Schots Home Emporium bath takes pride of place in the kids’ bathroom beneath walls decorated in aqua trellis wallpaper from Kravet. Melinda says: “There are ways to make rooms look beautiful and elegant, rooms that exude style and reflect your taste while still being practical and kid-friendly.”

(Credit: Photography: Abbie Melle / Styling: Lisa Burden)

ALFRESCO The barstools were sourced from eBay.

“The servery was added in our second stage of renovations,” says Melinda. “It has a marble top and a custom bi-fold window.”

Melinda’s green-thumb husband Tom can be credited with transforming the once-sparse backyard into a hydrangea haven over the course of nine years.


Interior design: Melinda Hartwright Interiors, @melindahartwrightsignature; @tomsgardenpath

Blooming hydrangea shrubs surround Melinda and Tom in the garden.


Take a stroll through Melinda and Tom’s glorious Southern Highlands garden and be utterly inspired by Tom’s magnificent transformation of the grounds.

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