IMAGES Eve Wilson STYLING Suzanne Cunningham
There’s nothing small about the Daylesford Cottage, in Melbourne, Australia. What it lacks for in size, it manages to make up for in exquisite home décor and serious functionality. We visited the small masterpiece that lies in all its glory and detailed character.
When Suzanne Cunningham, her husband Adam, and their two children Grace (7) and Tom (5), first aid eyes on this early 1900s three-bedroom Victorian weatherboard cottage in Daylesford, Victoria they knew that their dream of renovating a period home had come true.
The desire to renovate an old school masterpiece with an overwhelming classic charm and existing floorplan proved too wonderous to be a reality as the couple settled on renovating the cottage situated 1.5 hours from Melbourne. In many ways, the kids were the driving force behind an 18-month search that led the family to this idyllic spot in Daylesford. “Before they came along, Adam and I loved to travel,” says Suzanne. “But while having kids put the brakes on going overseas, we longed for somewhere to escape to on weekends as a family.”
The Victorian cottage was originally extended by its previous owner, so the young family set to establishing a plan to redecorate and remodel its primitively dated interior. From the word go, Suzanne, owner of One Girl Interiors, an interior decorating company, wanted to create the house as a weekend getaway, thus the house was aptly named ‘The Weekender’.
Its romantic navy and cream exterior charms anyone who walks past, with the essential reminder of period times meeting the bold and contemporary nature of the modern age. As the house was designed as a country weekend escape for the Cunninghams it is clear that they always feel at home every time they are in Daylesford at ‘The Weekender’.
Suzanne admits “it’s a very different property to our house in Melbourne yet it’s somewhere that I feel completely at home when I open the door”. Suzanne recalls, “It was very shabby chic when we found it. There were lots of exposed timbers and distressed finishes. It wasn’t to my style but it had huge potential – I knew instinctively that it would be a special place for our family.”
The couple understood that taking on a home in its state would incur large renovation costs, but only a humble $140,000 AUD was spent in aiding the cottage to a modern living standard. Collecting and refining ideas from other jobs that Suzanne has completed as an interior designer helped decorate the interior of the home, as well as having a selection of fantastic suppliers to call upon.
The couple laugh at how people thought they were somewhat crazy, when they said they were going to paint the floors rather than stain them. As Suzanne says “I knew exactly what I wanted, and now I have it – exactly how I want it”. With a few renovation roadblocks along the way the couple admit, “we didn’t have any major blowouts, we just hadn’t refined the budget to a really detailed level”.
Which, in looking back is something that the couple feel is necessary in anyone undertaking an old period home renovation. While predominantly looking at building costs they didn’t tend to go into granular levels with the completion of the interior.
As an interior designer herself, Suzanne was ready for the challenge of recovering such a majestic charm from the 1900s. Interestingly, explains Suzanne “For this house, I kept coming back to the lyrics from ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’: “Where troubles melt like lemon drops… That’s how I wanted the house to feel – that your troubles melt away as soon as you arrive. It had to be a place to relax and to get away from it all”.
Subsequently this quote lies in vogue on the walls of the house. The family love spending time at the cottage together, and being one unit is very important for the Cunninghams. With the kids Tom and Grace able to walk to the natural spring to get fresh water, Adam and Suzanne can lie back and put their feet up to celebrate the feeling of relief that another working week has passed.
Looking to the future, Suzanne wants to do more to the disused shed that sits next to the cottage, ultimately looking at turning it into a writers shed. As the couple have realised, that if you want something enough, especially when doing up your home, and you love it – then go for it.
When asked, Suzanne describes affectionately that if there were three words to epitomise the feel, style and character of the home it would be; simple, informal, and textural. It is clear that the process from concept to the completion of this renovation has been nothing but utterly rewarding for the Cunninghams. A meaningful retreat of “all things I love” remarks Suzanne.