Before and after: incredible living room transformation in Bowral

Clever updates turned the jaded extension of a cottage into a spectacular, light-filled living space.
Blue and white country-meets-Hamptons style living room.Photography: Natalie Hunfalvay

When seasoned house flippers Melinda Hartwright and her husband Tom discovered a ‘renovator’s delight’ for sale in their hometown of Bowral, NSW, it was music to their ears. Crying out for a refresh, the 1880s heritage weatherboard suited the interior designer’s timeless-with-a-twist style perfectly.

The couple reimagined the original home’s extension, which was built 20 years ago by knocking through an existing bedroom to create a new living/ dining/kitchen area, which they designed, says Melinda, “using the best north-facing aspect and a natural flow to the deck and garden”. After this major tweak, new v-groove panelling and a fresh coat of Dulux Snowy Mountains Half created the canvas for a look Melinda’s home, which she calls “‘Modern country’ with an English cottage feel”.

Before: dark and dingy

(Image: Supplied)

“It was more logical to have bedrooms in one half and the living areas in the other,” explains Melinda, who also built a new laundry, ensuite and kitchen during the renovation. “We gutted the space, sanded and stained all the floors, repaired or replaced the v-groove panels and then painted the dull, creamy walls and ceiling a more cheerful white.”

After: a light-filled retreat

Blue and white country-meets-Hamptons living room

A reupholstered chair and sofa from Dirty Jane’s create a cosy sitting area with a classic blue and white palette. “I always look for elegantly shaped second-hand furniture and cover it in a beautiful fabric,” says homeowner and interior designer Melinda Hartwright, who re-covered the armchair in ‘Mira Blue’, a playful animal print from Ballard Designs. A herringbone rug, from The Rug Establishment, completes the space.

(Photographer: Natalie Hunfalvay)

“Trick the eye into thinking a space is more expansive by hanging long curtains close to the cornice and use a contrasting rail to draw the eye up.”

Melinda Hartwright

About the renovation

Interior designer Melinda Hartwright’s home has been featured in Home Beautiful many times over the years. First came the renovation of her home in the NSW Southern Highlands followed by a feature on her magnificent Hamptons-style garden abloom with old-fashioned flowers including hydrangeas and agapanthus. This single room makeover inside her home took about two weeks.

Timber breakfast table surrounded by blue bistro chairs in a country-meets-Hamptons style home in Bowral.

Stepped down from the kitchen, a casual dining spot comprises a round table of Melinda’s and a striking, stripy set of four Parisian bistro chairs. The white balustrade adds an interesting detail and zones the living space without blocking it off from the rest of the home.

(Credit: Photographer: Natalie Hunfalvay)

The original room: Previously this space was the home’s kitchen and a main bedroom.

Time frame: This room took two weeks in a four-month-long renovation.

Console with two clear-based lamps with blue artwork.

The symmetrical display on the buffet enhances the serene colour scheme and takes advantage of the only available wall for artwork. Here, designer Melinda paired textural ‘Lynx Pleated’ lampshades from US company Ballard Designs with One World’s glass lamp bases to complement the light palette. (Photographer: Natalie Hunfalvay)

The works: Rooms were knocked through to form an open-plan living/kitchen/dining space connecting to the outdoor decks and the garden, while the main bedroom was relocated to the original part of the home.

Lessons learned: “For some of the small jobs at short notice we used tradespeople we didn’t know with mixed success, which cost us time and money,” she says. “I’d recommend getting references beforehand.”

Related stories