The rustic chic renovation of a cottage just outside of Melbourne

A yearning to restore a historic property lured a florist to this classic cottage.
Neutral and timber cottage living room with an open fire.Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey

Minou is curled up in a ball in front of a crackling log fire. Every day, the ginger feline heads out to explore his misty country Victorian surrounds, then every afternoon, without fail, he is drawn back to this very same nook within the warm home he shares with his owner, Annie. Minou is not alone in his sense of contentment; this renovated cottage has that effect on a two-legged inhabitants too.

Years ago, Annie, a florist, followed a gut feeling that led her 45 minutes out of Melbourne to this 1905 country abode. She was, until then, a city girl with aspirations to do up an urban period house and studio and to grow her own organic flowers in a pretty English garden. However, Annie’s renovation wishlist seemed to exceed her budget. “I was on the internet one day and switched the search from Richmond to country Victoria,” she recalls. “This house came up. It was everything I wanted at a price that was too good to be true.”

Grey cottage exterior with white picket fence.
Soothing neutrals run throughout the home, beginning with the exterior colour scheme of cool grey (try Dulux Water Worn for a similar shade). (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)
Grey and white exterior of a renovated cottage in regional Victoria.
Grey-painted cladding and pots sit harmoniously the garden’s blue and silver plants. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

The florist already had a connection with the area; five generations of her family had lived in the town and Annie’s parents own a farm weekender nearby. On the day Annie spotted the house online, her parents were at the farm so she asked them to swing by and take a look. “They called me straight away and said, ‘We’re standing under the most beautiful pin oak in the front garden of your new house.” Inspired by their evocative description, Annie made an offer that day, sight unseen. “That was it,” she says. “I had to have it.”

Wicker chairs on the verandah of a restored grey cottage.
Cottage style plants including lavender surround the home’s verandah. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

Who lives here?

Annie, a florist and her cat Minou.

Can you describe your style? Annie: “I’m into simple things and neutral colours. I love mixing whites, beiges, creams and coffee colours.”

Most satisfying DIY moment? “The original timber panelled ceilings were beautiful but in poor condition. I had to fill in between each one with Selleys No More Gaps. It was painstaking but so worth it.”

Tell us about the renovation “It was three years of weekend and evening projects and, as a first homeowner, I had a lot to learn. My mum and dad, who have renovated and built from scratch, were also a big help.”

Wood burning stove in a renovated cottage kitchen.
Annie returned the original wood stove to its former glory with a coat of White Knight Pot Belly Black and now uses it occasionally for heating. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

With a magical combination of palpable history and exciting possibilities, the house had cast a spell that glossed over the serious work required. Then reality set in. “I couldn’t sleep for the first few weeks,” Annie recalls. “It was so cold and there was so much to do. I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?'” Bedroom windows were jammed open, there were gaping holes and a dated kitchen and bathroom – not to mention a kaleidoscopic palette – to contend with.

Cottage living room with fresh flowers on the coffee table.
Accessories such as a silver jug, wicker vase and teacups complete the picture of a room in which to snuggle up in. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

Still, Annie had a clear vision of the cottage’s potential. “I knew if I peeled back the layers and simplified things there would be something very homely here,” she says. She threw herself into the restoration with the zeal of a DIY convert, seeking advice from all sources as she ripped out old cabinets, sealed holes with cement sheet and Selleys No More Gaps and gave every surface several coats of paint.

Cottage French doors leading out to garden.
Minou the ginger tabby. Ready-made curtains from Freedom add pocket-friendly comfort. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

The furniture in the home also speaks to Annie’s resourcefulness. Many pieces are family heirlooms that she has polished up and reupholstered. Other pieces are finds from internet auctions, country markets or Ikea gems that have been tweaked. She even tracked down her 150-kilogram cast-iron bath on eBay and enlisted a friend to help wrangle it in and out of her car. “I had a real need to play around with paint and do things up – to own my space,” she says.

Mint growing in a pot on a cottage windowsill.
Annie’s home is filled with plants and fresh flowers. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

Living room

Annie kept the original hardwood floors and doors in their original, roughed up state, and painted the walls Dulux Antique White USA. Once completely concealed by an old cooker, the fireplace is now the heart of the home, topped by a new mentle created using corbels from Schots Home Emporium and timber stained to match the floors. “I have the fire going whenever I’m at home,” Annie says. “I need to have the chimney cleared every year but I love it.”

Annie houses her television in a timber chest she found at a market. “That way the fireplace is the focal point of the room,” she says.

Cottage style living room with open fireplace.
The living room, which features a restored open fireplace, is painted in Dulux Antique White USA. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)


Proving her worth as a DIY queen, Annie redid her whole kitchen; the original wood stove is the only remnant of the old space. The backs of the old cabinets were exposed to the outdoors so she patched up the holes with cement sheet. She then painted everything in Dulux Antique White USA and put in Ikea cabinets.

Thoughtful flourishes, such as the splashback in pressed metal left over from the hallway, complete the room’s quirky yet timeless appeal.

White and timber country style kitchen featuring Ikea cabinets.
A mix of old and new comprises this charming kitchen. Annie constructed a country-chic kitchen from Ikea components. “If you really sift you can find lots of things at Ikea that will go with an older home,” she says. Solid ash benchtops, made by a local cabinetmaker, apply a personal stamp and a touch of luxury to the kitchen. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

Living and dining room

With loose white linen covers and lots of padding, the ‘Ektorp’ sofa from Ikea looks and feels incredible comfortable. “The covers come off and can go in the washing machine, which is good,” remarks Annie.

Ever the bargain hunter, Annie found her dining table at a second hand store. “It had a ridiculously cheap ticket on it,” says Annie. “It was a big effort to get it home but I managed.” The dining chairs belonged to a friend’s grandfather and the lamp is from Ikea, a s are all the pendants in the home.

Classic cottage living and dining room featuring a mix of vintage and antique furniture and Ikea gems.
“I enjoy mixing textures and patterns but neutral colours make it all blend,” says Annie of her home’s living and dining room. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)


Welcome to Annie’s floristry studio. The dramatic black and white scheme immediately transports her into work mode. Annie added comfort to the space by including a daybed, originally her childhood bed.

She sourced a piece of carpet from a wholesaler and hand sewed the edges to create an affordable rug. An old cabinet and desk – a Salvos find – were both painted in black enamel and lifted with new handles.

Back and white home office in a studio.
A dramatic black and white colour scheme immediately transports Annie into work mode. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)
Black and white studio with daybed and ornamental fireplace.
Annie added comfort to her studio space by including a daybed, originally her childhood bed. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)


Annie used Dulux Super Enamel in Antique White USA to paint the floor. “No one was prepared to say I could use it on the floor but it’s the hardest-wearing paint I could find.” Annie’s cast-iron bath was an eBay purchase. “A friend helped me collect it and us girls wrestled it into the car.” She had the bath refinished and painted the outside Dulux Light Rice.

All white bathroom in a cottage with a claw foot cast iron tub.
“I love a painted floor. It’s hard to maintain but its bounces light around the room,” says Annie. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)
Classic cottage bedroom with antique furniture.
Crisp white linens complement soothing neutrals used in the master bedroom. (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

Job done, Annie curls up on her plush sofa next to a purring Minou. Adventures have been had and now she is home.

Wire outdoor furniture setting in the garden of a restored cottage in regional Victoria.
“I wanted lush green, silver and white,” says Annie of her home’s garden. “It needed to be a cottage-style garden to go with the house and it needed to be quite frost-resistant. I love English gardens, particularly up here in the cold climate.” (Credit: Photographer: Derek Swalwell | Styling: Jo McComiskey)

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