Shed some light
Bakery owners transform a dark shed into an airy family home on the NSW south coast.
A DARK, DISUSED FARM BUILDING HAS BECOME AN AIRY FAMILY HOME NEAR THE NSW SOUTH COAST.
Tomato stakes were turned into slats for the shutters in the upper-level bedrooms. Freya Hilkemeijer made one lampshade from a bamboo plant cloche sold in her store, The Picnic Shed, the other from a dried palm flower. An Indian fabric covers the Ruby Star Traders sofa on the right, while the leather chesterfield came from a farm auction. The slow-combustion stove is the heart of the elevated ‘winter room’ up the stairs.
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Nineteenth-century courtyard doors from northern China at the entrance; a view of surrounding farmland; ham-and-cheese rolls and sourdough loaves at the bakery; the pool was added in 2013; in the master bedroom, an Indian bedspread and cushions from The Picnic Shed; artworks near Jelle’s favourite window seat include Monkey by Bali-based Ian Van Wieringen, paper butterflies from Kate Burns Design, John Olsen’s Entrance to the Castle of Life, and Tree by budding artist Mishka. CENTRE Freya and Jelle with (from left) Mishka, Saskia and Saxon, plus Saatchi the dog.
Jelle Hilkemeijer picks his way across the lawn balancing two cardboard boxes. As he’s the owner of Berry Sourdough Café, a delicious lunch could be approaching. The outdoor table has been set with flowers and a length of French cotton. From the boxes, crisp slices of pizza topped with cherry and grape tomatoes, spinach-filled pastries and quinoa salad are placed in aqua bowls, and tiny lemon tarts and chocolate macarons arranged on patterned plates. It’s Monday and, with the café closed for the day, Jelle has time to bring lunch to his wife Freya, who is also enjoying a day off from her new homewares enterprise, The Picnic Shed. The outlook is lush and green, a garden many years in the making. It’s the work of Freya’s parents, John and Annette Marshall, who bought this lovely 20-hectare property near Berry on the NSW south coast as a weekender in the 1990s. Over the years, the entire Marshall family has left Sydney to make Berry their home. John and Annette live in the main house and, among many other pursuits, grow proteas for the floral market. Freya, who worked as an art director in London and Sydney, and Jelle, who emigrated from Holland with his family when he was 11 and grew up on a farm nearby, live next door in what used to be the farm shed with their three children — Saxon, 11, Saskia, nine, and six-year-old Mishka. Freya’s sister Natasha, a designer and artist, lives five minutes away in town and works in a studio on the property. “We used to live in the tiny cottage next to the café,” Freya says. “It was great fun and Jelle was close to work, but we had two children and nowhere for them to play.” These days, once the kids return from school, Freya barely sees them. She can hear the thwack of a cricket ball as Saxon, wearing a baggy green cap, practises his batting while Saskia obligingly bowls. Or they may be climbing the oak tree outside the kitchen door or visiting the fairy dell, a spiral labyrinth of ankle-deep Boston ivy with a claret ash — and fairy house — in its centre. (Naturally, the tree must be hugged when you reach it and the house checked for fairy messages.) It was Natasha who encouraged the couple to look at the shed as a potential home. She could see the possibilities and was responsible for its conversion nine years ago into the light, bright and compact space it is now. Initially, however, Jelle and Freya were hesitant. “It was black inside and out,” Freya says. “It was quite disgusting. But when Tash showed us the plans, we were quickly convinced.” >
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT In Saskia’s bedroom, a decorative stuffed mushroom from Berry’s Cabana Jo and a quilt made by Freya; fence palings make raised vegetable beds behind the café; the 1966 painting marks a family connection on Freya’s side to John Olsen; botanical prints above an heirloom piano; Saxon and Mishka visit Peter Rabbit behind the café; Orson & Blake armchairs face a coffee table made by Jelle. CENTRE The kids run a pop-up stall outside Freya’s store. FACING PAGE Chairs from Austria surround an 18th-century French sycamore dining table.
The clincher was the inspired idea to open out two sides of the shed, install large sliding-glass doors and build decks out into the garden. Immediately this increased the natural light and the floor area. The deck, dappled with shade, becomes an extra room in the warmer months. The window seat at one end of the house, which affords a long view of trees and pasture, is one of Jelle’s favourite places to sit — “It’s a wonderful escape to come home to all this green and space.” Berry Sourdough was launched on the site of an old bakery almost 13 years ago. “It was about the authenticity of that old building and wanting to bake the type of bread I liked to eat,” Jelle explains. “Looking back, you can see how much things have changed. Berry is still a small town, but we have a vibrant and expanding food community.” Freya’s easy and eclectic approach to decorating is evident, from the heavy timber Chinese entry doors to the reindeer hide draped over a chesterfield sofa. Interesting objects, from cotton reels in a printer’s tray to deer antlers, straw hats hanging from wall pegs and a row of Dutch clogs in varying sizes by the back door, make for many talking points. “I fall in love with certain pieces and have to have them,” she says. “I take them home and make them fit.” It’s this ability to unearth the beautiful and interesting that draws visitors to Freya’s shop. Inspired by a Scottish tartan travelling rug, found when the family were on the road in Europe for three months last year, The Picnic Shed stocks an artful mix of old and new, vintage and contemporary, simple and elaborate. “There’s something for everyone,” Freya declares. How about a tartan picnic rug and one of those buff-brown boxes from the bakery, filled with macadamia caramel tarts? Berry Sourdough Café is at 23 Prince Alfred Street, Berry, NSW. (02) 4464 1617; berrysourdoughcafe.com.au The Picnic Shed is at the rear of the café. 0447 773 894; thepicnicshed.com.au
A painting by Freya’s mother, Annette Marshall, above an heirloom Japanese chest of drawers. “That’s an old iron hospital bed in our bedroom that I painted green,” Freya says. “It’s where the children can go if they have a bad dream or are not feeling well.”
Tableware from Melbourne’s Market Import on a rustic table made by Jelle. The 1950s Roadhaven caravan, Freya’s pride and joy, joins the family on holidays and also accommodates visitors.