HOW A COUPLE TRANSFORMED AN OLD COTTAGE ON THE BANKS OF THE COLIBAN RIVER IN CENTRAL VICTORIA INTO A FUN, MODERN HOME FOR THEIR FAMILY.
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 flophouse.com.au/river-house
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.