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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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).
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
TOUR TOM’S 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.