Sue and Justin have enjoyed living in older homes in various parts of the world, from a genuine Californian bungalow in California, a 15th century cottage in the English county of Norfolk, to a Victorian brick terrace in Melbourne. A common thread has been Sue’s interior style, which melds vintage finds and a joyful kaleidoscope of artwork and textiles.
“I’ve become bolder over the years, each house has been more colourful than the last,” says Sue. When the couple sold their former Brisbane home – the new owner was so enamoured with the interiors they bought the entire contents with the home. “All we took with us were our clothes, photos, books and two pieces of furniture which had belonged to my grandmother,” says Sue.
Who lives here?
Sue and Justin, semi-retired lampshade makers.
What have you learnt renovating Queenslanders? Justin: “Timber houses are great to work on. So adaptable. Easy to modify walls, doors and windows.”
What’s been your best decision? Justin: “Using second-hand building materials, furnishing and decorative pieces. It’s good for the environment and great for the budget.”
What brings you the most joy? Sue: “We love that both homes have a common aesthetic theme of a basic farmhouse and sit comfortably apart within the established gardens, appearing as if they have always shared the location.”
For the couple, whose adult sons had flown the nest, being untethered from possessions presented an exciting opportunity to start afresh, gently transition into retirement and embrace a tree change to Eumundi in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. Keen to tackle a project, they knew they’d found ‘the one’ when they stumbled upon a semi-renovated, circa 1910 farmhouse on two acres. “It instantly felt right and offered scope to add our own touches,” says Sue. Serendipitously, the move also led to an unexpected ‘second career’, with Sue, a former nurse, ‘falling into’ making lamp shades. “I’d always loved lamps and making the shades has been a wonderful creative outlet to indulge my passion for fabrics and interiors,” says Sue.
The effect on the home was two-fold. Not only was the machinery shed converted into a studio, lamps of all shapes and sizes began pouring through the doors topping tables and filling corners, alongside a smorgasbord of custom cushions and upholstered furniture, mostly made from designer fabric off-cuts. “Justin’s work also changed,” says Sue. “While winding down a career in IT, he took on the roles of renovator, groundsman and part-time lamp maker.”
Their next project was acquiring and transforming a guest house for the property. “After searching for 12 months, we found a cottage destined for demolition in the town of Esk, north-west of Brisbane, which we relocated onto our block and set about slowly and meticulously renovating over three years,” says Justin. Split down the middle, so it could be transported and positioned into place, the original worker’s cottage was stitched back together and reconfigured internally to create two bedrooms and two ensuites, complete with a new kitchen and living area. A verandah was also added to wrap around two sides and take in the block’s glorious views.
“We found the green casement windows at a demolition centre, absolutely loved them and bought them before we knew where they would go,” says Sue. The layout was reconfigured to create the kitchen at the back of the cottage, enabling it to flow onto the new side verandah.
“With the luxury of no time restrictions we could take our time looking for character details to add.”– Sue
Cottage living area
Like their home, every space is dotingly layered to create a true immersive experience, which encourages moments of pause to soak up the intriguing details and unexpected swathes of colour and pattern.
“There was no fireplace originally, so we installed a Masport wood fireplace and eventually found the vintage cast iron fascia and later the mantlepiece surround,” explains Justin. To help accentuate the centrepiece, the back wall was highlighted in Diane Bergeron ‘Great Jones’ wallpaper in Moss, with vintage wall sconces customised with fabric shades in Anna Spiro Marigold Multi.
Rather than match soft furnishings, Sue’s approach embraces vivid colour and striking fabrics by designers, such as Cloth & Print Co, Catherine Martin and Christopher Farr. “You don’t need a lot of fabric for lamp shades or cushion covers, so I love to use designer remnants and enjoy pairing an unusual lamp base, often sourced second hand, with a great fabric,” she says. For fabric remnants, try etsy.We love… eclectic decor
Home living area
A gallery wall in the living area features an array of artworks collected over time. The most sentimental is a painting of the family’s former Fox Terrier, which their youngest son Declan, now 31, painted when he was six years old. The space features a sofa in Cassandra Harper ‘Tibetan Flower’ fabric in Moss, topped with a mix of custom cushions and a Schumacher ‘Chiang Mai Dragon’ fabric cushion from Villa Life & Co.
Home main bedroom
Natural light and garden views pour through floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, which were an update by previous owners. The abundance of light highlights the details of the VJ walls and ceiling, which were refreshed in Resene Alabaster. Like a piece of art, the bedhead upholstered in William Yeoward ‘Felix’ fabric in Indigo provides a backdrop to the bed dressed in a white cover from Oliveaux Interiors paired with an ‘Evelyn’ hand-block print cotton quilt from Rachel Elizabeth Interiors.
“I like a relaxed and intuitive approach to decorating, nothing too formal or matching.”– Sue
Cottage main bedroom
In the cottage’s main bedroom, a vintage kantha quilt from Rachel Elizabeth Interiors is paired with Bed Threads scalloped European pillowcases in Terracotta and Rust and custom cushions.
Sue couldn’t resist Catherine Martin ‘La Palma’ wallpaper in Gilver for the cottage’s main ensuite. “I loved the brave, dynamic, tropical design,” she says of the striking backdrop, which is paired with an Early Settler vanity and tapware from Abi Interiors.
Cottage guest bedroom
Shades of green pervade the interiors. Here, in one of the cottage’s guest bedrooms, it’s echoed in a bamboo bedhead, found on Marketplace, paired with a Rachel Elizabeth Interiors quilt, to custom cushions, lamp shades and Diane Bergeron ‘Great Jones’ wallpaper in Moss (try Milton & King).
Home outdoor lounge area
Surrounded by tropical greenery, the home’s outdoor lounge area is one of the couple’s favourite places to spend time and in summer they eat outside every day. To enhance the sense of a seamless indoor/outdoor room, integrated banquet seating was installed featuring custom cushions in Christopher Farr outdoor fabric.
Coming full circle, after 12 years on the property, Sue and Justin have just sold their Eumundi home and are set to embark on another renovation adventure. There’s no doubt, the result will be just as delightful.