THIS FAMILY HOME SET IN A 1930S FARMHOUSE IN CENTRAL VICTORIA MAKES THE MOST OF OLD AND NEW.
The dining table top belonged to Kate’s mother and originally came from the Adelaide Wool Stores. The cane chairs and grey armchair are from IKEA, while the ‘Husk’ pendant light is from Beacon Lighting. FACING PAGE Kate made this woven egg basket from rope dyed with tea and the black enamel jug is an op shop fifind. The bench is an antique from Burra, South Australia.
LIFE OFTEN FOLLOWS ITS OWN familiar pattern until a major event brings change. For Kate Brew, it was her husband Adrian Battiston’s new career as a recruiter in AFL football that was to take her family from their Adelaide Hills home to a new life in a rambling 1930s farmhouse in Ballan, central Victoria. In 2015, just before making the big move, the family’s home was threatened by a bushfire. Miraculously, it survived unscathed but for Kate, the near disaster distilled in her the important things in life. It was also the impetus for Kate, who had studied textiles, to finally follow her dream of handcrafting found objects into original pieces for the home and garden — and establish her online store, One Fat Emu. Kate and Adrian have four children, Ava, 12, Sid, 10, Gus, eight, and four-year-old Meg. At their previous Adelaide Hills property they kept sheep, chickens and had befriended Ernie, a free ranging emu — the namesake of Kate’s business — who came to think of himself as one of the family. “He would try to get in the car, and come up to the back door,” says Kate. Their old home was much loved, she adds. “It felt like an old shoe.” When Adrian, a lawyer with a background in sports management, landed the new job in recruitment for West Coast Eagles, it was based in Melbourne. “It’s a dream job for Adrian,” says Kate. And for her, any regrets about moving were distracted by the hunt for a new home. “I love looking at real estate online, and I couldn’t see the children on a suburban block. I wanted to be on acreage, in a house with high ceilings and with a sense of space.” She short-listed five houses within an hour’s drive from Melbourne and spent a day going from one to the other. Swinging into the circular drive at Illuka Park, 80 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, she knew she’d found their new home. It had once been part of a larger estate but now sat on three hectares, shaded by big old trees and with views into the surrounding paddocks. Wisteria wrapped around the sturdy verandah columns and an old tennis court was hidden among the trees. “I decided this place had loads of potential.” While Adrian went on ahead, Kate and the children arrived just before Christmas 2015. The house was large and had a
“I wanted to be on acreage, in a house with high ceilings and with a sense of space.”
quirky layout. “It had lots of additions and there were two windows internally in the house, and there was a lot of colour; carpets were bright red, one room had wallpaper, other rooms had blue ceilings and it was a bit overwhelming.” They jumped into cosmetic changes first; ripping up the carpet, polishing hardwood floors, removing wallpaper, painting and changing light fittings — but keeping the chandeliers. “Though it’s still a work in progress,” says Kate. Initially they kept the kitchen in situ — it was a narrow room with a large open hearth and bay windows off the back entry. “It needed love,” says Kate. “We painted all the blackwood kitchen cupboards, but then we decided we needed a bigger space, especially at breakfast time when everyone is trying to make sandwiches for school lunches.” While the old kitchen has since been turned into a cosy study, the new one is now a much larger room that overlooks the garden and paddocks where a clutch of chickens and a handful of sheep roam. The original kitchen cupboards were recycled and the tradesmen poured a new concrete benchtop. “I love looking out at the contrast between the garden and the dry paddocks from the kitchen,” says Kate. But it’s the furnishing; the mix of vintage, industrial and new pieces that has been pulled together over the years that create the special character in the home. Kate jokes that so much is “a melange of junk that’s been morphed over” by family and friends. Then there are her own handcrafted works — rusty wire wreaths, some entwined with leaves, feathers and natural fibres, woven into wall hangings — that bring a simple beauty to stark walls. She sells her ornamental homewares and “aged garden pieces” online, most are one-offs made with collected foliage and natural materials. “I make really simple things with found objects from around the farm, or the tip,” says Kate. A wreath of rusty ringlock hanging in the kitchen is imbued with memories of their former home. “This is a bit of wire I found on our property in the Adelaide Hills, and I pressed it flat by driving over it with the car!” she says. “I love wire and rust, for me it’s like gold and silver, and talks of age and being old, and when I use it I like to mix up old and new. It creates balance in my mind.” For information about One Fat Emu, telephone 0421 839 552 or visit onefatemu.com
The original kitchen, with a bay window is now the study where Kate’s mother’s sewing table and chair sit in the window. The armchair and sofa are from IKEA, and the ‘Husk’ pendant light is from Beacon Lighting.
ABOVE, FROM LEFT Kate holding Meg, Sid, Gus, Ava and Adrian in front of the neighbour’s vintage truck; a wreath that Kate made from rusty farm wire makes a focal point above the concrete benchtop. A concrete panel was also made for the centre of the island — a workbench that has been repurposed. Kate tiled the splashback with Bunnings ‘Johnson’ tiles, ordinary garden taps overhang the kitchen sink.
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT Kate working with some of her collected pieces, cording natural fibres from a red hot poker plant into a bag; Gus and Sid with their chickens, Brownie and Clucky; the long gravel driveway into Illuka Park.