THE COLIBAN RIVER RUNS through the bot­tom of the gar­den, and so gave the River House at Lauriston in Vic­to­ria’s Mace­don Ranges its name. There’s a sense of peace­ful seclu­sion on the shady banks of the me­an­der­ing stream, and two years ago Josephine and Dar­ren Shep­pard chose to tie the knot there, on a lit­tle wooden jetty above one of its deep pools. It was their union, and the blend­ing of their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies — Josephine has Olympia, 16, and An­gelo, 13, while Dar­ren has a 21-year-old daugh­ter, Hannah — that prompted a sig­nifi­f­i­cant ex­pan­sion of the River House. Dar­ren, who works in the fi­fi­nance in­dus­try, built the fi­first sec­tion of the house — or “the cot­tage” as he calls the front wing — along with a swim­ming pool and pool house, back in 2003. There were old fam­ily con­nec­tions to this nearly one-hectare plot, but when Dar­ren bought it there were only rem­nants of the orig­i­nal farm left. “There had been an old house here… a few or­chard trees, big elms and hawthorns that were as high as the big trees, and a lot of gorse had taken over the river,” he says. Josephine’s back­ground is in the tele­vi­sion and fi­film in­dus­try. “I used to work in cast­ing and cos­tume and I’ve re­cently gone back to do­ing act­ing work as an ex­tra,” she says. When she and Dar­ren fi­first met in 2009, she was wid­owed and liv­ing in nearby Hes­ket. “I used to run bed and break­fasts there — we had a lit­tle don­key shed on the prop­erty that we had turned into a bed and break­fast as an in­come for me and the kids, and then I used to buy houses and I’d do them up, man­age and then sell them.” Once Josephine came along, the cot­tage that had been per­fect for Dar­ren and Hannah was sud­denly more on the cramped side for a fam­ily of fi­five. “We de­cided to ex­tend and put two more bed­rooms on. It took us a year to build, and at one stage all fi­five of us were liv­ing in one room,” Dar­ren says. Build­ing started with a sep­a­rate garage and two-storey loft, which is now Hannah’s bed­room, plus an­other space for Dar­ren’s of­fif­fice, then pro­gressed to the main house. A bed­room and en­suite was added on to the more tra­di­tional gabled cot­tage at one end and, in con­trast, a mod­ern ‘box’ ad­di­tion with long west-fac­ing win­dows to catch the sun was built at the other end. “We use it as the read­ing room, a sun­room and Jo’s of­fif­fice, and its mod­ern de­sign is to break up all the pitched roofs,” says Dar­ren. A rear wing orig­i­nally housed the kitchen and liv­ing ar­eas. It’s now an open-plan liv­ing and din­ing area, where you can sit around the fi­fire­place with views over the gar­den and down to the river. Mean­while, a new kitchen with stone bench­tops now re­sides where pre­vi­ously an ad­join­ing laun­dry was tucked away from view.

The Shep­pards came up with the ba­sic de­sign of the ren­o­va­tions, and gave it to a drafts­man to draw up. Lauriston was a gold­min­ing vil­lage in the mid 1800s and from the road the house, with its high-hipped roof, still sits in sym­pa­thy with the land­scape and the area’s min­ing her­itage. In­side, how­ever, it’s a dif­fer­ent story and the fin­ishes are mod­ern and clean. It’s here that Josephine and Dar­ren have both played a role. As Dar­ren says: “Jo does most of the soft stuff, and I’m more the hard­ware and tiles per­son.” “I’m def­i­nitely the dec­o­ra­tor,” Josephine adds. “I love in­te­ri­ors.” It’s ob­vi­ous though that they share a sim­i­lar taste when it comes to styling, and both have an in­ter­est in col­lect­ing eclec­tic art­works — every­thing from Aus­tralian con­tem­po­rary and Indige­nous paint­ings, to pho­tog­ra­phy ac­quired from gal­leries and auc­tions. The cou­ple also com­mis­sioned some pho­to­graphs of the prop­erty es­pe­cially for the house and a large im­age of the river by Melbourne pho­tog­ra­pher Jac­qui Hen­shaw hangs in the main bed­room. “Ev­ery sin­gle piece in the house means some­thing to us,” says Josephine. “For our wed­ding present ev­ery­one put in and we flew up to Sydney to John Olsen gallery and bought a Guy Maestri work,” she says. Th­ese days their at­ten­tion is mostly on the gar­den and land­scap­ing, which is now nearly fin­ished. “I re­ally love my veg­etable gar­den and I’m in there con­stantly,” says Josephine, who is in­vari­ably ac­com­pa­nied by the sage-look­ing Wally, a Jack Rus­sell cross that they aptly nick­name ‘The Mayor of Lauriston’. Stone walls, stone steps, paved ar­eas and mass plant­ings de­fine the ter­races and yard; from there the lawn stretches down to the river. A cop­pice of huge elm trees marks the tran­si­tion to the block next door, which they bought in 2010 to make a ten­nis court. “The kids love ten­nis,” says Josephine. “We al­ways have friends around for ten­nis comps.” River House per­forms best when it’s full of fam­ily and friends, Josephine adds. “We love to en­ter­tain, have friends up from town or in­ter­state, and when the kids are here, swim — we swim more in the river, than in the pool.” Josephine and Dar­ren still di­vide their time be­tween Melbourne and Lauriston. When they’re not in res­i­dence at River House, it’s avail­able for rent. But there’s no ques­tion, they say, that River House is the place they love most, and call home. “We’re so close to all the good res­tau­rants and shops in this re­gion,” says Josephine. “But a lot of the time we love just walk­ing around this old min­ing area, and watch­ing the chang­ing of the sea­sons, they are so dif­fer­ent up here and the quiet­ness of it all. This re­ally is our home.' For in­for­ma­tion about rent­ing River House, tele­phone 0438160671 or visit flop­

HOME LAURISTON VICVICTORIA A spot to un­wind on the deck at River House in cen­tral Vic­to­ria, with buttt­ter­flfly chairs from Kabi­netttt in Kyne­ton. FAC­ING PAGE Jack Rus­sell cross, Wally, is known as ‘The Mayor of Lauriston’ in this area. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 148.

Steps lead down from the pool house to a seating area and out­door oven that was built by Ian Evans of Ian Evans Cre­ative Land­scapes, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Neil Tait from Tait Dec­o­ra­tive Iron. The pool’s flfloat­ing flflamin­gos are from Sun­nylife. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 148.

The cou­ple bought the block next door to make their own tree-lined ten­nis court and pav­il­ion. The court lights were made by Tait Dec­o­ra­tive Iron. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 148.

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