A century-old farmhouse and its magical, Paul Bangay-designed garden

It's all about crackling fires, homegrown vegies and pink sunsets in this century-old farmhouse.
Cottage farmhouse surrounded by lush green cottage garden designed by Paul Bangay.Photographer: Damien Pleming

The first rays of morning light stream through the high kitchen windows, illuminating the rich patina of a timber island bench, its notches and scratches remnants of a former life as a shop counter. From there, it’s a short walk outside to sit with a cup of tea and savour the view of olive trees or, on hot days, to seek shade under the sprawling chestnut tree.

“We’re planning a party with a long table through the olive grove during olive-picking season,” says Bianca who, with her husband Nick, bought this 156-acre idyll in Victoria’s lush Goulburn Valley in 2010. “In winter, we sit at the dining table with the fire going. We’re old school – no TV at dinner time!”

The cottage’s exterior paint colours were chosen to blend with its stunning surrounds. The weatherboards were refreshed with Haymes Chilled Dacquiri to match a hedge that borders the lawn, while Haymes Tapestry on the corrugated iron roof mimics “the brilliant pink in the sunsets we’re so lucky to see,” Bianca enthuses. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell) (Credit: Photography: Damien Pleming / Styling: Stephanie Powell)

Who lives here?

Biana, an author and advertising strategy partner; her husband Nick, a management consultant and their black angus cows.

Best decorating tip? Bianca: “Take your home and collect things that you love. When you combine mementos from travels, sentimental pieces and thrilling finds that you’ve always wanted, you create a home that makes you feel happy.”

Biggest lesson learned along the way? Nick: “The impact that the seasons can have on your life. When autumn comes, for example, we prepare wood for burning in winter, collect leaves for making compost, and preserve what’s left of the summer vegies.”

What’s next? “Relocating our vegetable patch into the old dairy. We’ll extend it so that we can grow a full range of seasonal vegies and herbs. We also plan to oil the deck and put in solar power to further increase our self-reliance.

A wide verandah is furnished with a second-hand wicker chaise. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)

With its wide verandahs, rambling roses, leafy vegie patches and 41 Black Angus cows, the farm wouldn’t be out of place in a Beatrix Potter story. “It’s a special and magical place,” says Bianca. The couple had been looking for a house to buy in the city when Bianca saw the farm advertised, and arranged an impromptu viewing.

Originally from Adelaide, Bianca had long cherished the notion of a country retreat, while Nick, a surfer boy from Queensland, was up for a tree change. They went to check out the property and were met with the romantic reality of a 1900s two-bedroom farmhouse, Paul Bangay-designed garden and rolling paddocks where 1921 Melbourne Cup winner Sister Olive spent her retirement.

The garden was designed by leading landscape designer Paul Bangay. David Austin roses make a breathtaking statement, while concealing the
farm’s water tanks. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)

Structurally and design-wise, the house was flawless, courtesy of improvements made by one of its previous owners, interior designer Janne Faulkner of Nexus Designs. Fresh paint was all that was required indoors and out. French doors open from every room onto verandahs – the kitchen door is the main entrance, offering easy access for Nick and Bianca when carrying armfuls of vegies in from the garden.

The living and dining rooms flow off the kitchen, with an open fireplace warming the entire area, and a hall connects the living spaces to the two bedrooms at the front of the house. A mud room ensures that boots and outerwear are quarantined, while the French doors snare breezes from all directions in summer, eliminating the need for airconditioning. In winter, wood collected from the paddocks fuels the original fireplace.

Originally a shop counter, the freestanding baltic pine bench is enjoying a second life in Nick and Bianca’s home. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)
Paintings from Bali and geometric vases decorate the butler’s pantry. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)

Given the farm’s reliance on tank water, every drop is precious. Even a bucket is kept in the shower to collect the water before it runs warm to use on the garden. “As I get older, I really love the direct connection with the garden,” comments Bianca, who wrote a children’s book, Herbert Peabody And His Extraordinary Vegetable Patch (, inspired by her experiences on the farm and quest for greater sustainability.

Extraordinary is just the right word for the farm, which had Nick and Bianca under its spell from the moment they laid eyes on it. After living in Holland and Singapore, where they collected many of their beautiful antiques and vintage pieces, they are now truly happy to call the farm home. “It’s taught me to relax and be still,” says Bianca. “Something my family has been telling me I need to do for years!”

A weathered timber sideboard and built-in shelves are just the spot to display glassware, books and charming canisters. (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)
Bianca and Nick regularly dine alfresco. A timber table from Singapore and replica Panton chairs sit beautifully amongst the greenery. “We love the relaxed feel,” says Nick. “One of the benefits of being in the country is that you can play music as loud as you like without worrying the neighbours!” (Photography: Damien Pleming | Styling: Stephanie Powell)

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