Shed some light


Bak­ery own­ers trans­form a dark shed into an airy fam­ily home on 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; berrysour­dough­ The Pic­nic Shed is at the rear of the café. 0447 773 894; thep­ic­nic­

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.

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