For homeowner Amanda, days at her cottage, The Stone House, begin and end in much the same way: with a cup of tea in hand and a stroll through the paddocks, her three malamute x dogue de Bordeaux dogs gambolling beside her.
Located in the NSW Southern Tablelands, the 12-hectare property she owns with husband Brad is extremely remote and entirely off-grid. “I like to say we’re in the middle of nowhere in the middle of everywhere,” she says happily. The pair purchased the property and its charming cottage in 2017. Built in 1851 by Irish potato farmer Michael Dowling, The Stone House had been sympathetically restored by the previous owners to serve as a comfortable weekender. “It just had soul and I felt that indefinable feeling you get when a place is right for you,” Amanda tells. “Much to Brad’s horror, I fall in love with potential, and it had potential in spades!”
Who lives here? Husband and wife Amanda and Brad, owners of a transport business, and their three malamute x dogue de Bordeaux dogs Luna, Lola and Yogie Bear. There are also four miniature cows on the property.
Favourite spot to sit? Amanda: “Closing in the verandah created a bit of a sun trap, and this is where I like to sit with a book in winter.”
How do you like to entertain? Amanda: “We keep it very casual – homemade pizza … a game of cards.”
Where do you shop? Amanda: “I really love vintage stuff, so Gravitas, Braidwood; Dirty Janes in Canberra and Bowral; Lunatiques; Fossil Vintage; Cabana Jo’s; and The Picnic Shed in Berry.”
Along with the cottage, there was also an old slab timber hut on the property that could serve as extra accommodation, along with rich red soils, water and enough outdoor space for the couple to indulge their love of gardening. “It brought all of my passions together – interiors, gardens, sustainability, regeneration,” says Amanda. “Here, we can create something that will be a gift for whoever comes after us.”
While the previous owners had resurrected the cottage from a state of ruin into the cosy and comfortable three-bedroom home before them, Amanda and Brad took it a step further to render it suitable for full-time living. First off, they enclosed the back verandah and outdoor toilet – “a must when it’s minus 10 degrees outside!” says Amanda – before repainting the mission brown and red-brick kitchen and dining areas white.
Subsequent improvements included the removal of a wall between the dining room and third bedroom to create a second living space, rejigging the kitchen to make it more functional and spacious and updating the shower recess, tiles, shutters and paintwork in the bathroom. Given their remote location, additional water tanks and a bigger solar system were also essential. “It feels like any other home, we just don’t get as many bills,” says Amanda of the off-grid set-up.
Having breathed new life into the cottage and upgraded its comforts, Amanda and Brad are now happy to share it with others. They’ve relocated to the property’s renovated barn so they can rent the cottage to guests on Airbnb. Amanda promises a restorative and relaxing stay.
“It’s a cosy cottage and we’ve embraced that,” she says.”The thick stone walls insulate against noise and it feels very calming. And the smell, warmth and look of the woodfires in winter is also very comforting. Our kids sleep a lot when they visit.”
One of the couple’s first priorities was to close off the verandah and outside toilet. Large second-hand windows from Gumtree help flood the area with light, while the original flagstone flooring is a comforting nod to the building’s history.
“The original leadlight windows were covered with curtains and the architraves painted green,” Amanda recalls of the windows, which now enjoy star-of-the-show status. “Stone cottages and shutters go hand in hand, and they’re also very practical,” says Amanda.
The home’s original stone walls bring a lovely degree of strength and natural insulation to the cottage, and only needed a few coats of Dulux Strong White paint to freshen them up. You can create a similar look and feel with a textured finish like Rendertex by Haymes Paint or Fresco by Porter’s Paints.
You’ll find Amanda and Brad out amongst their expansive garden most days. “I’m trying to capture that essence of a rambling country garden, but I think it will
only come with age,” she says.
Builder: Owen Browne, OB Builders, 0435 779 503.
Electrician: Ron Wenban Electrical, 0428 445 259.
Plumber: Will Hay, 0477 778 375.
Tiler: Luke Gorecki, 0478 157 822.