A few bumps in the road weren’t enough to stop Si­mon and Kas­turi Wren from build­ing their dream home.

THE NSW BLUE MOUN­TAINS holds many pre­cious child­hood mem­o­ries for Kas­turi and Si­mon Wren, who, long be­fore they met, both en­joyed spend­ing their free time ram­bling about in wild sur­rounds and de­light­ing in the nat­u­ral set­tings. “For me, Leura was an es­cape from the flat and fea­ture­less sub­ur­bia we lived in,” says Kas­turi of her vis­its to a friend’s week­ender in the area with her fam­ily. “Leura had this con­nec­tion to na­ture and held the pos­si­bil­i­ties of ad­ven­ture.”

Kas­turi’s hus­band Si­mon grew up in nearby Ka­toomba and en­joyed a child­hood bash­ing about in the bush. How­ever, he also re­mem­bered too many frost­bit­ten morn­ings for his lik­ing. “He wasn’t ready to move back when we first met and we loved be­ing close to the city with busy ca­reers to oc­cupy us,” says Kas­turi of their lives in Syd­ney’s in­ner west. She worked at a law firm while Si­mon was in the tech in­dus­try.

A few years ago, how­ever, they both had a yearn­ing for more space and a home that al­lowed them to in­dulge in their beloved hobbies. “I love read­ing and paint­ing, Si­mon tin­kers around with things and dreamed of restor­ing a car,” says Kas­turi. Be­fore they knew it, the cou­ple started look­ing for a block of land that would ac­com­mo­date their dreams for a dif­fer­ent pace of life.

“We were avid watch­ers of shows like Grand De­signs, and we saw the hard work and heart­break of a dream build but — yes, a bit fool­ishly — we be­lieved ours would be com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” says Kas­turi with a laugh. “As it turns out, it was al­most the same.”

Miss­ing out on the first block they wanted, the pair were not go­ing to let the next 1500 square-me­tre par­cel of land they found in south Leura — com­plete with a tree-lined drive­way — get away from them. “I walked down that drive­way and I knew this was the spot for us,” says Kas­turi. “But we did have to con­tend with the tan­gle of over­grown scrub, clear­ing it all out.”

With the block ready, the cou­ple turned their at­ten­tion to styling. “We wanted to draw on what we’d loved on our trav­els; so Cape Cod-style was a start­ing point, but I also wanted an earth­i­ness and warmth.” Si­mon, on the other hand, wanted rooms for his tech gear and a dou­ble garage.

To­gether the cou­ple be­gan sketch­ing an out­line of their home and then con­tacted Sto­ry­book De­signer Homes to trans­late those pic­tures into a func­tional floor­plan and de­sign. After re­fin­ing the con­cept to make sure all their wants were cov­ered, in­clud­ing tra­di­tional win­dow panes, a New York-style mas­ter bed­room with en­suite and a guest wing, the cou­ple then got started with the help of Si­mon’s brother, Thomas, and cousin, An­drew Dufton, on the build team. Only some as­pects of the build were con­tracted out such as the kitchen and land­scap­ing.

“It was a fam­ily project,” says Kas­turi. “Which makes this house even more spe­cial. It brought the fam­ily to­gether. Yes, there were ups and downs and chal­lenges but we re­ally came to­gether and we’re so grate­ful to all our fam­ily who helped us make it hap­pen.”

Of course, noth­ing went to plan. The build started in earnest in Septem­ber 2015, with Kas­turi and Si­mon both con­fi­dent they would com­plete it by April 2016. “April came and went,” says Kas­turi. “Then we fo­cused on get­ting it done by Au­gust, which also came and went. So we thought Christ­mas, which also came and went!” >

The long de­lays, a few trou­bles with con­tract tradies and then ul­ti­mately spend­ing all their bud­get took its toll. “When we didn’t have enough to fin­ish off the job, it was heart­break­ing and it was an in­cred­i­bly hard time emo­tion­ally. I had this pri­mal urge to be in the house but we couldn’t fin­ish it!” says Kas­turi.

The cou­ple’s fam­ily helped get them back on track and fi­nally, in March this year, Si­mon and Kas­turi moved into their five-bed­room, two-bath­room home (com­plete with a dou­ble garage and work­shop). The home takes full ad­van­tage of the block, clev­erly ori­en­tated to cap­ture nat­u­ral light while also main­tain­ing full pri­vacy.

The lounge room is a gath­er­ing space with a free­stand­ing fire­place as a cen­tre­point. “Si­mon wanted it to be gas be­cause he’d al­ready grown up hav­ing to chop and gather wood as a kid. But I felt that the life we wanted was one where you had to put the phone down and be in the mo­ment, and if that means we’re chop­ping wood, so be it!”

Now en­sconced in their dream home, Si­mon and Kas­turi are tap­ping into the lo­cal com­mu­nity de­light­ing in ar­ti­sanal food, farm­ers’ mar­kets and a real sense of com­mu­nity. “The magic of the area hasn’t dis­ap­peared with time,” she says. “Dis­cov­er­ing all the lo­cal se­crets and mak­ing this place our home is the ad­ven­ture I dreamed it would be.” Kas­turi and Si­mon now of­fer their home as ac­com­mo­da­tion. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit wre­nand­whip­pet.com.au


The view from Sub­lime Point Look­out, about a four-minute drive from Si­mon and Kas­turi’s house. FAC­ING PAGE, CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP The fire­place is the cen­tre­piece of the liv­ing room — the hearth was made with ‘Pi­etra’ mar­ble from Rosa Stone. The ‘Bal­ance’ sofa by Camerich in Water­loo is dec­o­rated with No Chintz cush­ions, while ceram­ics from Lit­tle White Dish adorn the cof­fee ta­ble; Kas­turi found this door­knocker on Etsy; the cou­ple ini­tially wanted her­ring­bone floor­ing, but felt it would have been too dom­i­nat­ing, so only used it in parts of the home such as the en­try; the ex­te­rior is painted with Wat­tyl So­larguard in Smi­ley White, while the roof is Color­bond Night Sky. “So many tradies tried to talk us out of it, say­ing the white would be too blind­ing, or the roof too hot, but we knew what we were do­ing and it came down to get­ting the right shade,” says Kas­turi. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 142.

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