A YOUNG FAMILY FOLLOWED THEIR DREAM TO LIVE DUCKLING ON ON THE LAND AND TURNED AN‘ UGLY DUCKLING’ FARMHOUSE INTO A WARM AND VIBRANT HOME.
Matthew Playsted and his quilt-making wife, Susan, turned the neglected Hopewood farmhouse into a colourful home for their family of six.
EARLY MORNING, AS SUNLIGHT floods through the double hung windows of this Hopewood farmhouse, Susan and Matthew Playsted have breakfast at the large silky oak dining table with their sons Clancy, 16, Will, 14, Sam, 11, and eight-year-old Archer. The table once belonged to Susan’s grandparents. Outside the window, a lone kookaburra sits quietly on the heritage gate in the rose garden, framed by the towering gums and brigalow trees that line Canaga Creek. “I love how still and calm it is in the morning — it’s the best time of day and makes me appreciate where we live,” Susan says of the 330-hectare property north-east of Chinchilla in the Canaga district on the Western Downs. Before long, the day gathers momentum. The boys divide between the shed and the creek, where Sam and Archer set yabby pots, while Matthew is off to plant chickpea down the paddock. Susan works on a patchwork quilt, skilfully joining jewel-coloured strips of Liberty fabric with linen and stripes. Like Susan’s quilts, the farmhouse interior is a harmonious medley of colours and patterns. “I’ve always been drawn to colour but I try not to make it overwhelming. I’ll put it against blue or neutral and the white walls tone it down. I have always loved mixing vintage pieces with textiles to make something that’s fresh and lived in,” Susan says. The vibrant house is a far cry from what it was just a few years ago. In 2014, when Matthew and Susan first inspected Hopewood (believed to have been named by the original settler in 1908 because of the heavily timbered surrounds), both the house and farm were extremely run-down. “It was
a very ugly duckling. I remember driving up to the front gate, looking in and announcing that it gave me bad vibes neglect e and andiwasn’ t sure ifi could live there. it was a neglected yellow painted house surrounded by long grass and a few overgrown bushes,” recalls Susan. Despite their initial doubts, the couple were drawn to the fertile farming country and the view from the tiny front verandah towards Canaga Creek. Both Matthew and Susan were raised on farms and had hoped to move on from acreage on the edge of Chinchilla, where Matthew works in the gas industry. “The goal was always to buy a farm — we both value the freedom of growing up on a property and wanted that for the kids.” Susan explains. After purchasing the property in July 2014, the Playsteds rented a house on a nearby farm while the renovations and extensions were underway. “We stuck within the existing footprint but re-jigged rooms — a bedroom was turned into an ensuite and walk-in robe, we added an extension to the north-east for the deck, kitchen, dining and living areas and an extension at the back of the house for a bathroom, laundry and offiffice,” says Susan. Susan spent weeks sanding back the old yellow paint from the exterior chamferboards, before she and Matthew painted them Dulux Vivid White. They continued this colour throughout the interior, which provides a crisp backdrop for their collected antiques and artworks. The living area, which adjoins the kitchen, is a favourite spot in the house and Susan has created a gallery wall as a focal point. “I started with the Rachel Castle embroidery and that anchors the rest. It has morphed over the past 18 months as I’ve added more pieces of art — mainly still life mixed with landscapes.” Last year, Susan organised a lampshade-making workshop at Hopewood and she enjoys using preloved lamp bases and colourful patterned fabrics to create something unique. “I sometimes change my bases and shades to freshen the look,” she says. Meanwhile, Matthew has made improvements on the farm, levelling melon hole country and adding infrastructure and they now grow barley, wheat, oats, sorghum and mung beans. “I like the contrast from my day job. Going for a walk up the lane that runs through the centre of our property when I get offff shift is a chance to reset and think about what needs to happen on the farm. It’s a great place to raise our family and I feel proud of the fact that I’m improving the property. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the change over time,” Matthew says. Not far down the road, the Canaga hall and cricket nets are a gathering point for locals. “There are lots of people our age and it’s a lovely community,” says Susan. “Our neighbours have been a blessing and taken our boys under their wing. “We had hoped to fifind an old Queenslander on a farm but that didn’t happen. You don’t buy a farm for a house and, in the end, we made this house our own. This has been the best thing for our boys. We’ve hit the jackpot really.” For more information, visit hopewoodhome.bigcartel.com